Abortion and abuse: are women under threat like never before? When times are tough, societies look for scapegoats. It seems to be women’s turn. The backlash against prominent women online – ‘uppity’ women – has been ferocious and sobering to behold. The roll-back of abortion rights in parts of the United States risks reopening debates which seemed to have been closed decades ago. What’s happening feels concerted and determined. Is it? Or is it just the same old battle for women’s rights in a new guise?
Our special guests for this ThinkIn included:
Julie Bindel, writer, radical feminist, and co-founder of law-reform group Justice for Women.
Gina Miller, activist, campaigner and businesswoman.
Mandu Reid, Women’s Equality Party leader and the first black leader of a UK political party.
We used the rise of online abuse and the challenge to abortion rights to ask the question whether women and womens’ rights are under threat. It’s clear that globally we are living in a time of progress – in education, in the workforce, in maternal mortality and beyond. However our ThinkIn suggested those gains are not set in stone.
Femo-nationalism. This was a term coined by Gina Miller who pointed to the women at the forefront of right wing nationalism: Anne Widdecombe and Annunziata Rees-Mogg in the UK Brexit party; Marine Le Pen of the national front in France. (Miller also noted she was attacked online by women as much as men).
The failure of the law. One member bravely chose to share her own experience of being raped, describing how a system supposedly set up to support her instead discouraged her from seeking justice at every turn. Julie Bindel said: “We have a CPS that is not fit for purpose. That is deciding not to take any rape cases to court at the moment unless it is literally John Worboys [the Black Cab Rapist] with a gun and mask…with the woman screaming ‘stop rape with me’ and its caught on CCTV.’” As my colleague Chris Cook said, it feels like any progress made during MeToo was “paper-thin”.
Campus violence This was echoed at another ThinkIn. There is an epidemic of violence against young women on university campuses which is completely underreported.
Are rightwing groups capturing feminist narrative and using it against women?
Holding the law to account. The appalling conviction rate in cases of sexual violence is an old story, but that’s no reason for us to ignore it. We have to insist that we can do better, and explore how.
We will investigate violence on campus.