'My sister was called a whore and a slut by men driving by, just for walking home by herself' - but sure, women are equal now (more or less)

Our campaigner, whose runs the cult Everyday Sexism blog, on a feminism for today

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It’s a common refrain; one that pops up again and again in the mailboxes and conversations of those writing about gender imbalance or even just daring to talk about it. “Women are equal now (more or less)”. Why, it is frequently demanded, do we continue to bang on about something that is barely even an issue any more? Why not think about some of the real problems in the world, given that we women in the UK now live ‘gilded lives’ and, to all intents and purposes (apart from a few little ifs and buts) have achieved equality?

Those little ifs and buts don’t half have a habit of adding up though…

Women are equal now (more or less). Apart from the fact that in our parliament today, where the policies and legislation that affect us are debated and defined, less than one in four MPs is female and women make up only a fifth of the membership of the House of Lords. And in the courts where cases are tried to comply with those laws, just 4 out of 38 Lord Justices of Appeal and 17 out of 110 High Court Judges are female.

Women are equal now (more or less). But in our most prestigious art institution, the National Gallery, it was reported in 2010 that out of 2,300 works, the collection contained paintings by only 10 women. At our Royal Opera House, it has been 13 years since a female choreographer was commissioned to create a piece for the main stage. And of the 573 listed statues commemorating people around the UK, only 15% are of women.

Women are equal now (more or less). Though according to the UKRC, less than 1 in 10 of our engineers are female – “less than half the proportion of France or Spain”. The Royal Society has never had a female president and only 6% of the current Fellowship is made up of women. And in chemistry, whilst 50% of undergraduates are women, they make up only 6% of professors.

Women are equal now (more or less). Except that they only write a fifth of front-page articles and 84% of those articles are dominated by male experts or subjects. Women directed just 5% of the 250 major films of last year, down nearly by half from the paltry 9% in 1998. And while only around one in five UK architects is female, 63% of them report experiencing sexual harassment during their careers.

Oh yes, women are equal now (more or less). But in a Home Office survey as recently as 2009, 20% of those polled said it was acceptable in some circumstances “for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend in response to her being dressed in sexy or revealing clothes in public”, and 36% said a woman should be held fully or partially responsible if she is sexually assaulted or raped whilst drunk.

But let’s concentrate on other things, because women are equal now (more or less). Though a woman wrote to us last week that her “daughter asked today if she could change into a boy so she could go into space”. And another said “My sister was called a whore and a slut by men driving by just for walking home by herself from work.” And another was sexually assaulted by a man in a club, and another was told by her boss to wear a skirt and heels because it would be more “flattering” than trousers and another had a man at work suggest to a male colleague, referring to her, that he should “Just smack her around some, she’ll shut up”

Let’s not make a fuss about it though, because women are equal now (more or less). Although last week a woman of 31 died after reportedly being denied the potentially life-saving treatment she needed on the grounds that Ireland is “a Catholic country”. And as another woman cycled through central London she reported how, “a van driver blocked my path so he could shout "I'M GOING TO RAPE YOU!"”. And according to average figures, 2 women were killed last week by current or former partners, there was a phone call to the police every minute about domestic violence and every nine minutes a woman was raped.

But don’t worry, pipe down, hush up, get a grip, calm down dear.

Because women are equal now (more or less).

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