By Caroline Weintz,
(Studied at Curtin University, Western Australia)
It’s a sad reflection of Scottish life that whilst we have a gender balanced cabinet in the Scottish Govt, we still see men who domestic abuse women allowed to walk free from court.
It’s the 21st Century and we see almost on a daily basis violent criminals, many of whom abuse, assault and murder women and children walk away with either no custodial sentence, a token custodial sentence even for the most horrific of crimes, and more often than not, they walk free with a ‘not guilty’ or ‘not proven’ verdict.
In Scotland we lack the ability to come down hard on such criminals – no, I don’t think we should go down the route of the US system in its entirety, however statistically men (and women but in few numbers) who commit such crimes have an extremely high rate of repeat offending – often with their crimes becoming increasingly more severe over time.
I do not believe for one moment that the vast majority of people in Scotland would be against much tougher sentences for such criminals and a system that supports victims involved. This support must include long-term care for the entire family and in particular children. It has been proved beyond any doubt that children, particularly boys who grow up in an environment of violence and domestic abuse, will themselves go on to offend in similar ways later in life – often to a much more severe degree.
For young girls growing up in an environment that exposes them to witness or be the victims of such behaviour, they themselves are much ore likely to become victims of violent abuse later in life.
It’s all well and good saying that we promote reform for those who offend, but the stark reality is that for the majority of such offenders our so-called ‘reform’ system does nothing but encourage them to re-offend.
We only have to look at the horrific murder of the young nurse this week – who it now seems was the victim of a horrendous attack by a 21 year old man. Speaking with my young daughters, they have frequently left me gobsmacked at the vast majority of male peers who do not see anything wrong in refusing to accept ‘no’ as an answer from a girl who doesn’t want to have sex with them.
This attitude is not confined to our poor areas, it is endemic across the whole of society at an alarming level.
I have experienced from some of my daughters’ teachers over the years an abhorrent sexist attitude towards them. One notable incident was just 18 months ago from my daughter’s physics teacher at parents’ night. Whilst talking about her ability at physics – a subject that she has repeatedly excelled in – and her desire to leave school and go to university to study astro-physics after S5 instead of staying on to take advance higher in S6 which she didn’t need given her good results at higher level. He said quite openly and seriously “I don’t think she should go to university at the age of 17 to study astro-physics. If she’s hellbent on leaving school at that age she should take a gap year and go and help out in an orphanage in Africa like my daughter and lots of other girls do!
Other remarks I know teachers have made – male teachers – have been extremely sexist in general terms. When applying for a work experience placement in an astrophysics research lab – government funded too – an email reply came back from the head of the department stating quite clearly that they wouldn’t take her because she was a girl!! The very same week that a Scottish Government initiative was announced to encourage girls to become more interested and involved in science and engineering.
With these types of ‘role models’ no wonder we live in a society that cannot stand to be shown up on a political platform by a sharp minded and highly intelligent female. Let’s face it – at each and every one of the debates – the body language of the male participants was incredibly threatening towards Nicola Sturgeon in particular whenever she challenged them. This was no more so than during the Scottish leaders’ debate in which it appeared that Jim Murphy was about to physically assault her when she stood firm with her challenging arguments.
If you push the right buttons with men like that – you will eventually see the real side of them – i.e. a man who cannot stand to be shown up intellectually by a woman. It is exactly the same situation for women who are subjected to abuse, assault and threats when they fail to do as the man says.
It’s time we took the opportunity in this country of standing firm on our position of having a government that puts its money where its mouth is on a 50/50 gender balance in the cabinet. But it cannot all be down to the politicians, they can lead by example however, the real work needs to come from us all – clearly demonstrating that we as women will ensure that we bring up our children to see that disrespect towards women is wholly unacceptable and should never be ‘tolerated’ – the biggest challenge comes with teaching young boys.
Their thuggish idols in football and on Top Gear in the shape of Jeremy Clarkson and company where they show no regard for women or anyone who challenges them, needs to be addressed by the broadcasters themselves.
Let’s face it though – this will never happen when the national broadcaster itself promotes an open policy of sex discrimination particularly on TV by removing from camera every female presenter or journalist who gets to a certain age, or indeed puts on a few extra pounds of body weight. Once a female presenter at the BBC passes her view-by date she is hastily shoved out of the door completely or designated a radio job where she cannot be seen. Ask yourself this simple question – Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland’s political editor has continuously put on weight to an alarmingly morbidly obese size over recent years. Where on the BBC – not just in Scotland – do you see a female news presenter or journalist in front of the camera larger than a dress size 12? – let alone one who is as obese as Mr Taylor is.
The undervaluing of women throughout our culture is deep in the heart of our existence. It is subtle, but extremely powerful and it needs to be challenged loud and clear that it is not acceptable in any place, in any way or form.
Nicola Sturgeon is a shining example of what we can all be – and we need to build on that example. Her ability to not only gain unprecedented support here in Scotland, but throughout the UK is very much because she is extremely intelligent and that she will not be spoken down to by the male establishment of Westminster’s Eton set.