There was good news and bad news yesterday on the UK women’s political scene. Good news yesterday when the first forced marriage culprit was brought to justice and bad when a 72 year old leading scientist and Nobel Prize winner was forced to resign his job over some ridiculous and tasteless joke made in front of the wrong audience. According to Sarah Vine he is not the only one to have suffered the backlash of radical feminists.
It makes us take a closer look at feminism here in this country and just what we are trying to achieve with it. Surely we should have learned from the lessons of last month’s General Election that, like it or not, political support is usually strongest in the centre. Not too far left, nor too far right. So it should be with the feminism debate. The middle line is that we are all (feminists or not) appalled by the raping of children by Isis or them setting a woman on fire for refusing sex, and that we are actively helping the plight of girls and their mothers in developing countries as best we can through our generous overseas aid package.
Yes there is still sexism in science, as there is in a whole raft of industries. There is no doubt too that the comments by Sir Tim Hunt were totally out of line with today’s world. Also, that the response of `silly old fool’ or `half your luck’, as would have been given in the past, is no longer appropriate. The fact is that increased sexual violence today is a real issue, as is female genital mutilation carried out on our shores and the continued stalking and murder of vulnerable women in our society. My concern is that we are powerless to gain public support for cross-society action if we continue down a path of intolerance to all men who ‘put their foot in it’ or try too hard to be funny when they are not.