7 Days That Rocked My World

A few of the women taking time out to think about themselves on our last RenewYou day at Bristol Law Society HQ.

How’s your week been? Mine has been very much like the curate’s egg. Good in parts. (My curate is female, obviously.) Here’s what happened…


Last Saturday saw me in Lichfield, at the final night of Letters to Emma, an extraordinary play written by a woman and acted beautifully by two women. I had interviewed the playwright, Carolyn Scott-Jeffs, and found her an inspiration. I’d also gone to the first night after which there was a filmed Q&A session. The first question was asked by a chap, then the second. Crikey, I thought, I need to get a woman asking a question on this recording, so I asked something. Afterwards, in the bar, I talked to 3 women who had seen the show. They were so enthusiastic about it and we chatted about how useful it could be to adolescents having problems (one of them worked in this field). “Why didn’t you ask a question about that?” I said, after she had shared something really insightful. All three of them shook their heads. “Oh no, we couldn’t they said. We wanted to but we would have felt silly.”


After an overnight stay in Lichfield we head home. My mate from school, was coming, and there was an urgent need to drag the vacuum cleaner around before her arrival. It is a truth universally acknowledged (well, at least by those who know me) that selling is not my forte. However, I run a business so selling is pretty crucial. She is excellent at sales and rose to the heights in her corporate career. So now she is now working with me and was to experience a RenewYou course herself the next day. We spent the evening reminiscing about school and I was reminded afresh how lucky I had been to attend an all girls state school, with some excellent teachers, who insisted on teaching us about the lives of significant women. We had been encouraged to speak up, to be confident of our abilities. It also reminded me of the perves who used to hang around our school, and how we were exhorted not to wear our skirts too short, not to encourage them. The police would come in to assemblies and tell us to use our feminine wiles to discourage boys from speeding on their bikes, accompanied by lurid photos of motorbike crashes. We were being held accountable for male behaviour at a very early age. It was to be the leit motif of the week.


RenewYou day in Bristol. In truth, the first course I had delivered since my major op in the Spring. I was a tiny bit worried that somehow things wouldn’t be the same but once the women were in the room, introductions accomplished, the magic began. I have never yet run a RenewYou day where some kind of magic doesn’t happen and when the support becomes almost palpable. It happened again. Once again I was struck, listening to the stories, of how we women undersell ourselves, of how talented and accomplished all the women were, yet all, in one way or another, admitted to feelings of imposter syndrome, of not feeling as confident as they wished. The confidence grew as the day progressed and I relaxed. That night Val and I celebrated over a bottle or two and started planning for the next one, in November. Details are here.


The news is full of tales of violence (in which I include sexual harassment) against women. It’s depressing. It kicks off at 7.30 am with John Humphrys of the BBC Today programme aggressively asking questions of Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, about the latest statistics on this

Key findings include a respectable annual rise in the proportion of convictions for sex offences, and it shows that over the last decade convictions for the range of crimes of violence against women and girls has risen by a huge 63 per cent – there were 51,974 such convictions in the year to 2007 and 84,565 in the year just measured. During this period the number of these cases as a proportion of the CPS’ overall caseload has risen from around 7 per cent to 19 per cent. A fifth of our prosecution service’s work is now devoted to tackling these often still hidden crimes.

Something to celebrate I would have thought. But Humphrys decided to tread the well worn path of talking about false accusations of rape, why women do it, and how many cases got thrown out. He talked of the scales being tipped too far in one direction, ironic in the light of the news filling up the airwaves later in the day. (You can read more on that here.)

The sexual harassment scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein deepened on Tuesday when three women accused the Hollywood producer of rape in an article in the New Yorker, allegations he “unequivocally denied” through a spokeswoman.

Twitter was full of it and mainstream media picked it up quickly. Suddenly the news was awash with people telling their tales of being assaulted by Weinstein. Was something amazing happening? Were women actually being listened to? I don’t know a woman who hasn’t been sexually harassed. And when you get to my age you lose count. Sometimes I’ve called it out, sometimes I haven’t.


Today I am going to a small business expo thing in Bristol. I have decided I need to put myself ‘out there’, having been fairly low key this year (that flipping op again). It is held in a football stadium. Lots of pictures of male footballers. Lots of men in suits, and a few women. Quite a few of the speakers are female, which is encouraging but predominately I’m in a field of grey suits and testosterone. They have a speed networking cafe where you make your pitch in a minute and then move on. I cannot bear the thought and swiftly pass on by. I am reminded once again of John F Locke’s book on communication styles Men Duel, Women Duet. Not much room for duetting successfully in the speed networking cafe. However, I do make one connection with a fabulous woman who talks to me about speaking at an event so it’s not a complete waste of time. Buoyed up by that encounter I head to the TEDx stand. Apparently Bristol is a big noise in TEDx talks and has an event coming up next month. I would love to do a TEDx talk so I book myself to attend to see how it’s done.

More news on way home about Weinstein. It gets worse. Now the questions are being asked of the women, like, why didn’t you do something. Some idiot on Twitter says they should just have swivelled on their heels and walked away in a dignified manner. He’s not a lone voice and women are being castigated everywhere for not speaking out. Hearteningly, more and more high profile names join the fray, recounting their own experiences of being abused by Weinstein. So many people do not understand the power dynamic, the violence and fear involved. I want to scream at the reporters to stop asking the women why and ask the men! Once again women are being held accountable for men’s behaviour. Except now it’s 2017, not 1972. Maybe we haven’t moved as far as I thought.


I am amazed this morning when tuning in my regular fix of BBC Radio news to hear an obnoxious author who has written a book listing all the people he doesn’t like (feminists seem to loom large) being given masses of airtime to promote his book. It’s not a book of any importance at all and I can only assume this chap must have friends in high places. The Today programme has decided to ask one of the women he castigates on, Polly Toynbee. Polly is an experienced journalist and broadcaster but even she was lost for an appropriate response when Letts, the author in question, sensing he was not winning a point, (duelling) said:

“Do you know, whenever I’m on with Polly I wish I could just pin her to the ground and tickle her under the armpits and make you smile my dear!”

Another variant of, women, you just can’t take a joke, poor things. I have lost count of the number of times that has been said to me when I’ve remonstrated with men for being sexist and disparaging. Polly has riposted in her own medium, the press. No doubt, as she ruefully acknowledges herself, she will get a lot of unpleasantness directed towards her for this so here’s a bit of positivity and support for her. He had no right to speak to her in that way. He was patronising and misogynistic. PIN HER DOWN! How dare he? By the way, his book is called ‘Patronising Bastards’ Oh the irony. It was easy for me at home to think of a quick riposte, not so easy for Polly in the heat of the moment. You can read what she wrote about it here.


I see a tweet from my mate, Joan Smith that she is to be on Woman’s Hour talking about the Weinstein case. She will be talking to Jenni Murray. At last, I think, we will get some sense, and I am not disappointed. Joan says, in response to a question from Jenni about why women do not speak out, that women internalise guilt about male behaviour from an early age. Full circle I think and I tweet that at age 7 I was flashed and frightened by a young man and the police were involved. The police asked me if I had done anything to encourage him. I was 7. And I realise that I as I tweet it that I have hardly told anyone of that relatively innocous incident because it was surrounded by shame. I had to go to court and my teacher forbade me to tell anyone why. I was told to say I was sick.

So let’s not denigrate those women who are speaking out. The blame belongs to the abusers. The debate needs to be about the abuse and why it happens, not why women have not felt able to tell their story. Let’s applaud them, surround them with love and support, and let’s make it easier for women to speak up. Let’s listen to women.

Here is Emma Thompson, putting it pithily. If the link doesn’t open for you, try this one.

PS RenewYou is running again in Bristol on November 28th and we are taking bookings now. More details are here. The last group formed their own ‘support group’ to help keep them focused on their aims. I love it when that happens. Plus, the course price includes a follow up coaching session from me.


Posted on October 13th, 2017 by

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