The Guardian has a special section on women in Britain, which asks how far have we come in 80 years. Be prepared to be depressed.
Some highlights: beauty contests and poll dancing for women at university. Just a bit of post-feminist fun? One women answers the question, would you rather have beauty or brain, with the remark that if she doesn’t have good looks, no one will listen to her.
There’s a growing sense that women shouldn’t work outside the home if they have young children. In a poll, 69% disagree with the idea that its the man’s responsbility to work and the woman’s to take care of the home, but only 46% disagree with the idea that mothers shouldn’t work outside the home.
1. Tanya Budd, 21. Final-year engineering student and creator of the HypoHoist
‘My first public speaking event was incredibly scary. It was at the Brunel Bicentenary conference in front of all the top engineers in the UK and probably only about 5 per cent of the audience was female.
‘Men do think differently and I think it’s always nice to have a balance between both genders, but I definitely think it’s an even playing field now and I’ve never encountered sexism.’
2. Rania Khan, 26. Labour councillor for Bromley-by-Bow in Tower Hamlets, London; secondary-school science teacher
‘The escalation of the porn industry and lap-dancing clubs really bothers me. I moved from Libya to London when I was about eight and seeing images of women being exploited and used as sexual commodities everywhere made me feel sick. I would walk down Tottenham Court Road as a teenager with my mates, ripping out all the prostitution fliers from the phone boxes.
‘I want to see more women, especially from ethnic minorities, involved in politics. Women need to be educated and empowered to take those key positions; only then will we see change.’
Suswati Basu, 20. Student and activist
‘Two years ago I was gang raped in a London park. When I told the police I was in counselling due to a history of childhood sexual abuse they made me sign a statement saying I was “too mentally incapacitated to know what consent was”. I was so out of it I didn’t know what I was signing. I wasn’t allowed to see a solicitor or my family.
‘When I later tried to change my statement, the police prosecuted me for lying. My caution was eventually overturned, but no one was convicted of the rape: the whole thing was brushed under the carpet. Thankfully that was the turning point, when I realised I had to fight back.
‘My lawyer…encouraged me to speak out about what happened to me as an ambassador for the Women and Girls Network (WGN). Of course I was scared. It is a difficult thing to say and to hear, but it’s the truth.
‘I’m working with WGN to set up an NHS initiative offering young people counselling with other young people who have suffered similar violence and abuse.
If you look at the report, please let us know what strikes you! I’m sure there were some bright bits.