It was exhausting to watch the proceedings of the Scottish Parliament harassment committee yesterday, and I can’t imagine how it must have been for those who were actually part of it.

One moment has just kept flashing back. That was the moment when Murdo Fraser asked Nicola Sturgeon if she thought she owed the people of Scotland an apology “for asking us to trust [Alex Salmond] for so long”. Mr Fraser didn’t exactly ask for the First Minister to apologise on behalf of her predecessor, just to say sorry for not telling Scotland that he might, actually, have been unexemplary all this time.

That was an extraordinary question to ask, but when you think about it, it is not that much of a surprise.

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The First Minister is not the first woman to discover that a man close to her turns out to behave in a questionable way with women.

It’s part of a larger problem - we live in a society where we chronically relieve men of the burden of responsibility and accountability while it invariably falls on women. This is even reflected in the language we use. We say women “get raped”: grammatically, the spotlight is on the object, rather than the subject. We say women put themselves in situations when they can be taken advantage of, either by wearing such and such clothes, partying too much, or just existing in the world, but we rarely say that men take advantage of women because they feel they can.


We question women who speak out and refuse to keep quiet anymore, but we don’t question the predators who make lives miserable thanks to this environment where women find it so difficult to be heard. Finally, we don’t ask men to apologise for their actions, but we ask women to apologise for their deeds, or at least for not letting the world know. Because how could they not know?

I firmly believe that women can do everything. But as exceptional as we may be, I don’t think we have the power in us to read men’s minds and know everything about their lives, especially the shameful bits. I personally wish I had the gift to know in advance who I should stay away from: that would have spared me a lot of pain and money spent in therapy to this day. But we don’t. That is why I struggle to find any justification or relevance in Murdo Fraser’s question.

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The irony in the spirit of the question is that it implies precisely what critics of Me Too castigate: they say it creates a culture of suspicion (#NotAllMen). If women need to apologise if they ask to trust people who turn out not so trustworthy, and given that the vast majority of assault and harassment cases go undiscovered, should we just assume, to stay on the safe side, that we shouldn’t ask people to trust men in a position of power?

That couldn’t be further from what Me Too, and feminism in general, is about. But what this sequence has shown is the immensity of work that is needed to finally hold men responsible for their actions instead of turning to the women surrounding them for accountability.