THERE is a clip from the 1970 general election that re-surfaces from time to time. In it, BBC presenters Cliff Michelmore and Robin Day are interviewing Conservative MP Janet Fookes about the election result. We’ll use ‘interviewing’ in the loosest possible sense here, because it is the absence of any attempt at serious questions that saw the clip go viral a few years ago.

In the video, Fookes is referred to as a "lady MP’’ and probed about her love life. For the benefit of viewers who may be watching on a black and white television, Michelmore explains that Fookes is a "gorgeous red-head’’.

The video is often used on social media as an example of how bad things used to be for women in politics. The patronising tone of the two male presenters is explained away as merely a sign of the times. After all, such overt sexism wouldn’t be tolerated at the BBC these days. Inferred in that is an assumption that things must be much better now.

But are they?

This week we saw two (present-day) clips of women in politics go viral on social media.

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used a point of privilege in Congress to condemn Republican Ted Yoho for his verbal abuse of her outside the House of Representatives a few days previously. With characteristic lucidity, she said she could not accept his qualified apology for calling her a "f***ing bitch’’ and that he had shown the world ‘‘you can be a father of daughters and accost women…you can be a powerful man and accost women.’’ She spoke about the toxic culture of politics, where some men feel they can harass and abuse women with impunity.

Later in the week, Australian MP Nicolle Flint wore a bin bag in a video on Twitter to protest about the "sexist rubbish’’ written about her by male commentators. In response to an article written by ABC columnist Peter Goers, in which he had mocked her for wearing "tight trousers and stiletto heels’’ she asked "What I want to know is, what are women in politics supposed to wear?’’

We can probably assume that Ocasio-Cortez and Flint weren’t asked about their love lives or appearance during their respective election nights, as Janet Fookes was in 1970. But 50 years on from that infamous interview, it could be argued that progress is still too slow.

The visibility that comes with being a politician is what makes women a target for harassment and sexism. That visibility and the far reach of their public platforms is also how they get their responses out to the widest possible audience. When women in politics respond to sexism, they are often praised for being open and honest about their experiences. The number of people applauding momentarily drowns out the trolls and sexists.

Yet there is a sense of futility in this sexism/viral response cycle. The support female politicians get when they speak about misogyny in public life doesn’t filter out the rank sexism in the water in which they swim. Round and round we go, where women are forced to fight misogyny with intellect and an almost mandatory calm (read – not ‘hysterical’) response.

At the time of the Westminster harassment scandal we heard optimistic predictions of imminent culture change at the heart of UK politics. We were told that gentleman’s club days of the House of Commons were long gone: where groping and leering and men abusing their considerable power would no longer be tolerated.

That optimism was misplaced. It will take more than an independent grievance process to undo decades of toxicity and workplace structures weighted in favour of the powerful.

This week we heard claims from a former parliamentary aide who says she was threatened and sexually assaulted by a Conservative MP while working in the House of Commons last year. The woman, who is in her twenties, says that she approached the Conservative chief whip Mark Spencer to report the assault and he took no action.

"He didn’t seem interested in the details of the allegations but spent most of the time saying how I shouldn’t worry about the threats. His response was, ‘Well, don’t worry, because the MP won’t actually carry out those threats’.’’

This came in the same week that the Conservatives faced criticism for their handling of complaints against the MP for Delyn, Rob Roberts after it was found he had sent inappropriate messages to junior members of staff. The party have launched an investigation but thus far have not withdrawn the whip from Roberts, who – in one of the messages to his 21 year old intern – asked if she’d like to "fool around with no strings…you might come and visit me in London’’.

And over in the House of Lords, Lord Stone of Blackheath – an ex-Labour peer – was warned that he faces a "severe sanction’’ if he does not stop harassing women.

Last year, four women had complaints against Lord Stone upheld and he was ordered to undertake "behaviour change coaching’’. Two more women came forward with complaints after a report about his conduct was published, which were also upheld.

Of course, misogyny is not unique to the corridors of power. But if our representatives can’t get their own house in order then the public won’t have confidence that they can be trusted to address the wider manifestations of inequality. It’s easy to get complacent when we look back to how women in politics were treated decades ago.

Sexism in politics has changed over the years but it hasn’t gone away. It has morphed into something that is far more pervasive than cringe-worthy interviews about the colour of a woman’s hair. Abuse and threats towards female politicians is a growing problem, particularly online. And when men in political parties are accused of wrongdoing, there is still a tendency for parties to close ranks and put protecting one of their own above the need to keep women safe.

There are more women in parliament but equal representation is still a long way off. Women can stand for election, but many are reluctant to pursue a career in public life when they see how badly women in politics are treated.

Women have a voice in politics now. But for as long as female politicians have to constantly use theirs to speak up about the misogyny they face, we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back too much for all the apparent progress we’ve made.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.