• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

The sexism debate: split opinions

Opinion in the media over the last week has divided on how grave Lord Rennard's alleged violations were, and how indeed the women should have handled them.

Joan Bakewell, summed it up, saying that often the divisions are generational, with "older people taking the view that it's not much harm, is it? What's a hand on the knee between friends?" However, she noted, "the young women who are part of the completely liberated generation are saying I'm sorry but it's absolutely against the rules, and we we're not having it".

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee led the way, in spelling out that "sexual harassment is all about power" and who has it. "And what women hear again from the LibDems is: 'Not you.'"

On Newsnight, Anne Robinson talked of the need to be tough - to be "formidable". MP Stella Creasy's retort on the show was: "I don't want women to feel they have to be formidable ... We've got to stop the focus being on the person who does the accusations."

Rennard after all, had his supporters, one of whom, LibDem MEP Chris Davies, said: "This isn't Jimmy Savile, it is touching someone's leg six years ago, at a meeting, through clothing", and likened to it "an Italian man pinching a bottom".

On BBC's This Week, Miranda Green, a former LibDem adviser, assessing the public view of the debacle, said: "[The impression] that you get because of this saga is that it's not only endemic and common place, but nobody really minds."

Veteran MSP Margo MacDonald spoke last year about the culture at the BBC in the Savile era, saying she had been frequently "goosed" (pinched on the bottom). She also recalled that when she worked in a restaurant, she was at the till and "as the boss passed me, he would touch me on the bottom. And all you did in those days was roll your eyes and ignore it. Soak it up and move on". There was, she recalled, "an open lasciviousness" back then.

"A lot of the women didn't object as much as they should have. They felt that was their station in life. When I got into politics it wasn't much different. I remember being at a conference seated between two Vabinet ministers. One put his hand on my knee, and then on the other side of me another Cabinet minister did exactly the same. I smacked both of them. I don't know whether they enjoyed it or not."

However, she added this did not mean that people really thought this kind of behaviour was okay. "It might have been accepted. But it was not acceptable."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

208255