I indulge in a little light reading before I go to sleep at night. It’s the New Statesman and it bills itself as “enlightened thinking for a change”. I am not sure that it is always conducive to sleep and I do a bit of groaning as I read it, mostly in despair. I do not get time to read a newspaper or watch the news so between radio 4 news and the magazine, I manage to have a bit of a handle on what is happening in the world.
I like the New Statesman in particular because it gives more in depth coverage of issues and it has some great writers. Laurie Penny is a great favourite although I do struggle with a bit of envy when I read her column. She is young (she is only in her 20s) yet she writes cogently particularly about inequality and the treatment of women world-wide.
Last week she wrote about a publication by an organisation called Anonymous which is an internet activist group which supported dissidents in the countries affected by the ‘arab spring’. They have written a handbook called “A Survival Guide for Citizens in a Revolution”. As she quite rightly points out, it is a sign of the times that such a book could seriously be considered worth publishing. She suggests that some of the advice is very sensible (if you have an inkling that there is trouble afoot it is a good idea to have your papers with you and be wearing a pair of flat shoes) if self-evident. As ever with Laurie though she cannot help herself from homing in on the sexist take.
There is a section about rape and the problem she has with it is, as ever, that it throws the responsibility back onto the woman. She accepts that the people (men?) who wrote this book are well-meaning but the advice includes exhortations like “try to appear undesirable and unattractive”, and “do not wear skirts”.
Yet again it is down to us to ensure that we do not attract attention that will cause us to be raped. Yet as Karen points out in her article last month, the thinking is completely the wrong way around. Rape is about control, whether it is at home where sex and violence is often used as a way of humiliating and exercising power or whether it is used as a weapon of war, to do the same on a grander scale.
As women we have to stop believing that it is down to us to be modest, accommodating, acquiescent, or all the other things that we are told we must be in order to keep ourselves safe. Instead we should be educating the young to be respectful of each others choices, challenging the men in our lives to see that there is wrong thinking here which needs to be turned on its head, respecting women in the workplace by paying them equal pay, and allowing them the same opportunities for advancement. We should value the largely unpaid work that women in our society carry out, looking after children and the elderly.
Until women are valued for the huge contribution they make to our societies and men who use physical and other forms of violence ‘to keep them in their place’ are brought to justice, then we will continue to be raped and the rapists will get away with it. I want to live in a world like Laurie envisages where everyone can have “social, political and sexual liberation”.
If you want to read Laurie’s blog, go to: www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny