Time to pipe down and start doing something

{Joaquin Phoenix receiving the BAFTA for Best Male Actor} 

I forlornly sat at a friends kitchen table and told her I had come to the realisation that women will never be equal in my lifetime.

‘Oh God, get used to it’ she replied bluntly ‘I worked that out ages ago’

The conversation took place around the time Chimamanda was making waves with her talk on how we should all be feminists. It was a few years after Kathryn Bigelow became the first {and since then only} woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. The Handmaids Tale arrived a little later and made us question why the hell it all felt so real. Me too was just something you said to confirm you were also on your period. And Times Up was shouted at the end of a party game.

The sadness and confusion I felt about the discovery of my inequality was acceptable back then. Just about. I was still in my early 30’s and women weren’t ‘on trend’ yet.

 

But to be surprised and even outraged by misogyny and sexism in 2020 feels incredibly naive. If you’re under the age of 21 I’ll give you some leeway. I say this after recently heading back onto the ‘gram {I had to for the fashion week outfits! I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it} and being inundated with braying posts about the injustice of sexism and misogyny.  Writing an angry post, spitting out a raging tweet or even addressing an audience of privileged millionaires when you accept your award for best person playing another person surely seems fruitless these days. It’s all talk. What actually is being done about it?

When the news broke about Harvey Weinstein the world for women changed. We were shocked, scared and instantly woke up to the grossness of sexual harassment and systemic misogyny. Not just in extreme circumstances like the Weinstein case but in our everyday lives. We rallied and raged and thought more about what we have to put up with as women. Now that it was all out in the open, and we were all talking about it, there was an expectation that real change was going to happen. We believed that men would stand up for us more, especially those in power.

But has anything really changed?

 

My case in point, and what I was faced with when I returned to Instagram, is MP Tracy Brabin’s shoulder.

Labour and Co-operative MP for Batley & Spen and Shadow Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Tracy Brabin ~ let’s get her full title involved here ~ caused a social media melt down last week when she gave a speech in the House of Commons whilst wearing a one shouldered top.

I will firstly say that I believe Tracy should have known better. A dress that exposes your shoulder is not appropriate attire for work {and I challenge anyone who’s not in the entertainment industry to admit they’d wear something similar to their work}

Tracy is fully aware of the archaic and male dominated environment she works in. She’s also aware of the insane abuse women have to endure when they step out of line. 

 

Now, what they were saying about her was far from appropriate. Being labelled “a slag, hungover, a tart, about to breastfeed, a slapper, drunk, just been banged over a wheelie bin” was gross. It’s also the language of insecure, bored beings sat behind a screen looking for some attention. Any attention.

But are we at all surprised? Really? Because MY rage is if you are surprised then you’re naive.  It’s 2020. We’ve had a decade of understanding what a troll is and what they will pick up on. We’ve all been made acutely aware that the world does not fall on the side of women. Neither does it for the LGBTQIA community, people of colour, the lower classes. The list goes on. The world is simply not fair.

So let’s actually do something about it now. Actions speak louder than words. Since childhood we’ve been taught that.

Let’s not blow our load in one long rant as we shout loudly into a cul de sac of likeminded, outraged bypassers. The abuse hurled at Tracy Brabin was click bait. It can be harmful but why don’t we collect our ammunition and use it in a positive way?

 

Tracy did. She responded with a quick tweet saying she was busy and then put the dress in question on Ebay. It eventually sold for £20,200. ‘All money raised will go to Girlguiding UK to support their work helping girls build confidence and self-esteem, in the hope that they grow up to be leaders.’ BOOM! Action. She’s back at work now. There was no twitter war or media feud. She was proving that…you guessed it…actions speak louder than words.

Thank you Joaquin Phoenix for your thoughtful and supportive BAFTA & Oscars speeches. We’re glad that just as you receive these awards you’re realising a few things. Forgive me if I hold back on the praise until I actually see you do anything about it. 

Let’s stop braying louding and start doing with purpose. 

 

Our platforms may not be as big and wide reaching as Tracy or Joaquims but it just means we need to think differently. We need to think about our work environments. Do we have a platform that can help people less privileged or powerful than ourselves? We can go support female led movies on opening weekend. Let’s buy, read and spread the word about books written from a point of view that isn’t white and middle class.

In the words of LuLu Wang, as she accepted her award for Best Feature at the Independent Spirit awards“We don’t have to encourage women. There are lots of women making films and who want to make films. Really what women need is just the job! Give them the freakin’ job! Give them the money!” 

It’s now time to pipe down and get to work…See you out in the field, lovers!

 

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