So, the other day UN Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo said that the UK was the sexist country in the world, in her opinion, and everyone got their knickers in a right twist over it. Understandably, I suppose – it’s hardly a judgement that’s going to help British tourism or anything.
Her reasoning is that the UK has a “boys’ club sexist culture”, and that government measures like austerity tend to have a disproportionate impact on women. She also criticized the media’s negative and sexualised portrayals of women – she argued they created negative and damaging perceptions of women and girls, and lead to the “marketisation” of their bodies – and was miffed that she wasn’t allowed into Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, where their have been some controversial complaints from women in the past.
Now, I’m not going to argue that Britain is actually the most sexist country in the world, because that statement is utterly ridiculous. I don’t have to worry about being prosecuted for ‘promiscuity’ if I’m sexually assaulted, I can have a job, I’ve been educated. If I had a husband and he hit me, that would be a crime here, not his ‘right’ as my ‘owner’. So being a woman in Britain could be worse – much, much worse.
But the counter argument I’ve heard, about Britain being the best place in the world to be a woman, is equally stupid. Where does this even come from?!
First off, just because the lady made a silly hyperbolic statement, doesn’t mean the stuff she’s talking about isn’t an accurate reflection of what it’s like to be a woman in Britain. The “boys’ club” is a real thing – it’s most apparent in Parliament where there are only 147 female MPs, compared to 503 male MPs. There are currently only 3 women in cabinet (though two more of those are allowed to attend. Equality, right?!). To put this into perspective, 45% of Sweden’s national parliament is female. It’s not a competition, but I think it’s obvious who’s winning.
I couldn’t find any figures on transgender or androgynous individuals in politics, unfortunately.
The figures rather accurately reflect leadership positions all over the country. Although more women go to university than men now, there are startlingly few female lecturers, professors, and researchers in general. Research presented by female lead researchers is more likely to be rejected. Likewise, even though women dominate education, but more headteachers are male. Don’t even get me started on leadership in other industries…
So, men make all the decisions. Not surprising, then, that you have ridiculous outdated rules governing women. Like, you literally have to have two doctors ‘satisfy the criteria’ for the Abortion Act 1967. Which are, by the way:
- continuing with the pregnancy would involve a greater risk to the woman’s life than ending the pregnancy
- continuing with the pregnancy would involve a greater risk of injury to the woman’s physical or mental health than ending the pregnancy
- continuing with the pregnancy would involve a greater risk to the physical or mental health of any of the woman’s existing children
- there is a significant risk that if the child is born s/he would have a serious physical or mental disability.
Yeah, because you’d have to be mad not to want a child.
I’m not even going to talk about domestic violence, or portrayals of women in the media, catcalling, the division of domestic labour, women in science and engineering, austerity measures – I don’t need to. It’s all pretty obvious stuff to anyone who isn’t willfully blind, and it would be patronizing to you.
What I will say is this – just because one turd has a bow on it, and the other has gone white and stinky, doesn’t mean the first isn’t a turd. Stop excusing our existing cultural problems with pathetic stuff like “oh but it’s so much worse elsewhere”, because all you are doing is making Manjoo look right.