1. The SNP Cabinet has expanded its girth but not its gender balance. Now there are two out of nine (or three out of eleven if you count the lawyery ones) in the main Cabinet. The Shadow Labour Cabinet also only manages to give three places out of eleven to women. But there are four out of ten junior Government Ministers, which is better so hey ho, let’s not get too sniffy about progress. But still…
2. The super-injunctions. Yes there are all sorts of subtleties with this one and a much bigger and broader debate to be had around the right to privacy and the public’s right to know. But there is no mistaking how it all looks. Rich men using their wealth to cover up their foibles and indiscretions and keep their public images intact. It says a lot about our society frankly.
3. Good news on the unemployment figures with it continuing to fall in Scotland but less good for women. I would have liked to have given you the figures for Scotland but gender differences on employment, unemployment and economic activity by region (sic) are not publicly available. But no reason to suggest that Scotland is bucking the UK trend on this one, which shows a fall in the number of women without jobs (ie more women employed) but a much smaller one than for men. At the end of March 2011, there were just over 1 million women unemployed, a fall of just 5000 on the previous 3 month period to the end of December 2010. There are fewer women in work, far fewer in full-time jobs and a disproportionate number in part-time jobs. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this puts an awful lot of women firmly in poverty bands, and consequently, thousands of children too. Ensuring more women can work in well paid jobs, as well as solving the outrageously high and tragic levels of youth unemployment are too enormous problems in Mr Swinney’s in-tray. A word to the wise: more widely available, suitable and affordable childcare would help enormously. Oh and making sure some of those youth apprenticeships bridge gender divides by creating opportunities for young women to work in male dominated trades (and vice versa) would also be a good thing.
4. Some issues are so obvious you wonder why it takes a movement to bring them to our attention. This week saw the launch of No Women No Peace in the UK with the strapline “you can’t build peace leaving half the people out”. We all know how women – and children – are often worst affected by conflict, yet too often they are excluded from strategic peace building. This campaign simply asks that their vital role in peace building be elevated and given its proper place. Seems simple enough to me. Shame we need a movement to achieve it.
5. Rape was back in the headlines this week, for all the wrong reasons. Worse was listening to men (mainly) trying to justify why the rape of a woman by a stranger in a park was worse than the rape of a wife in her marital bed. Depressing stuff. And there was a little local stushie when City of Edinburgh Council wasn’t keen on allowing women (mainly) to march, at night, through the streets of Edinburgh in an attempt to reclaim them. Some of the reasons for the Council’s humming and hawing were that the noise of the chanting might cause distress to Grassmarket residents. And the fact that there are lots of drunken men around on a Saturday night – and likely to be more next weekend thanks to an influx of rugby teams and supporters for the 7s tournament – meant it probably wasn’t safe for so many women to be out on their own at night.
No, I’m not making this up and yes, it does make the point of the march eloquently. But thanks to a little publicity, City of Edinburgh Council has relented and the march to Reclaim the Streets is now going ahead.
The following week will see Edinburgh’s first Slutwalk. I think I’ll be walking but not sure if I’ll be doing it as a slut. And while I get what the point of it is, I’m not entirely sure why women need to reclaim or absorb a word that was never ours in the first place. There is something about the sexualisation of women in all aspects of our society, particularly the inappropriate sexualisation of young girls that needs to be addressed. Is that aided or abetted by women reserving the right to dress like sluts? Not sure, it’s a complex one. Apparently I can march in my pyjamas if I like, which might just suit me rather well. And absolutely, it’s time for women to protest about being victimised and labelled. By men (mainly).
But the point remains – two marches in as many weeks. Women are fighting back – hurrah! Shame they need to do so in the first place. We have every right to expect the laws of this land to protect us from crimes of violence and violation. And we have every right to expect to be able to walk and go about our business freely, free from the fear of violence and violation. And it’s time our governments, society and judicial system recognised this.
Political representation at the highest level, unemployment, a campaign for involvement in peacebuilding, marches to demand the right to be safe and treated appropriately – all signals of just how far we have to travel in 21st Century Scotland to create a society of equal opportunity and status for women. It’s still a man’s world right enough.