Claire Black: Ruth Davidson sets a good example

Ruth Davidson endures hateful language frequently, if her Twitter feed is anything to go by. Picture: Jane Barlow
Ruth Davidson endures hateful language frequently, if her Twitter feed is anything to go by. Picture: Jane Barlow
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WHEN I read the tweet that was sent to Ruth Davidson I had lots of different reactions. What kind of pathetic fool sends something like that? Wow, isn’t it amazing that the insults hurled at lesbians haven’t changed since I was a lass. In more than 20 years, you’d think there might be something other than she needs a good seeing to. But somewhere within me, pretty deep down, there was something else too, a flicker of something more painful and personal.

The wince takes me back to that horrible, shaming feeling I had when I was 15, newly out, sitting on a set of concrete steps waiting for the bell to signal the imminent onslaught of double history and I saw a girl mouth, “lemon” through the safety glass of a window in E Block. I can remember the burn of the blush across my cheeks, the flip of my stomach as I, for a moment, panicked that this new part of me that I’d become aware of, that felt so good and so right, my pass into fun and frolics, love and laughs, might also signal the start of something sinister, the start of me being a target for bullies.

I can also remember her shock as I hared down those stairs, two at a time, blasting through the door to demand of her “And what is that to you?” When it comes to fight or flight, my tried and tested route is the former.

In all of the years since that encounter, I’ve never suffered the hateful language that Davidson endures all too frequently, if her Twitter feed is anything to go by. But I have been subjected to homophobic abuse. The stuff that’s been the easiest to shake off is the random man in the street who on recognising that the woman whose hand I’m holding is not just my friend, decides that the most appropriate response is to shout, “F***ing dykes”. The most painful has been the more covert, whispered, behind the back stuff.

But none of it is acceptable. None of it is just my, or any LGBT person’s lot to put up with. It’s ignorance and fear voiced, at least in part, from the belief that no-one will stand up to it.

Gay people have been standing up for themselves forever. And they’ve needed to. We might have equal marriage and more LGBT visibility than perhaps ever before, but homophobia is rife – 75,000 young people will be bullied this year because they are gay. Countless LGBT people of all ages will hear terms of abuse some aimed directly at them.

When Ruth Davidson first made the decision to bring attention to just some of the abuse she receives, she explained she wanted to set an example to young LGBT people, “I don’t want them believing that the only response is to sit passively and take it.”

In recent days she’s achieved something else, she’s shown the power of what happens to be one of Stonewall’s campaigns: No Bystanders. It’s about calling out bullying and by doing so supporting those being targeted. The First Minister did it and plenty of others followed. It works. I know that objectively as someone who understands how bullying thrives on silence. But I know it too as someone who has felt the sting of such hate. Let’s keep on doing it.

Ah, the emperor has new clothes

LOTS of people – OK, about three fashion journalists and some bloggers – are getting very excited about the “revolution” that is fomenting in the fashion industry whereby unisex clothing is all the rage. Ratcheting up the excitement is the fact that the department store Selfridges has created an ‘Agender’ area, where you can buy clothes designed to be worn by both men and women. It’s crazy stuff – trousers for women, pink things for men. Whatever next?

I don’t mean to be churlish, bring it on. And props to Saint Laurent and Hermes who are apparently leading the way. It’s just that haven’t certain designers been doing that for, well, ever? Jill Sander comes to mind. Comme des Garçons too. And on the lowly high street, many of us have been gender-bending for years, held back only by having legs not quite long enough or shoulders not quite broad enough.

Happily there are enough shops with XS sizing to cater for people like me who when they buy a down jacket don’t want “feminine” styling but a garment that’s really warm with a hood that works. If this high-end revolution hastens the pace of change I welcome it, albeit begrudgingly.

Sisters doing the business

THERE was no mention of the impact of what they were wearing, but an algorithm has been used to show that companies run by women perform better than those run by men.

The calculation designed by Quantopian examined the returns to investors made by Fortune 1000 companies when they were run by women and compared them to the performance of regular S&P 500 companies. Anyway, when the numbers were crunched, it transpired the firms headed by a woman gave a return of 340 per cent, while the others provided 122 per cent. It can’t all be down to power dressing, surely? «