'The Handmaid’s Tale as public policy' Women are being reduced to nothing more than breeders - Susan Dalgety

Is there no end to the contempt in which global society holds women?

The WHO draft report this week was “silent” on the subject of drink-related violence against women and girls
The WHO draft report this week was “silent” on the subject of drink-related violence against women and girls

I ask, not because I am a mean old feminist, but because I can’t deny the evidence that is presented week after week that the world truly is misogynist.

Just as I considered writing this week about Scotland’s footballing prowess, or the joys of working from home, or even Edwin Poots’ short-lived career as leader of the DUP instead of women, a headline on Twitter caught my eye. “WHO says women of childbearing age should be BANNED from drinking alcohol” screamed the Daily Mail.

Bitter experience has taught me to check, then double check, the facts before putting finger to keyboard, so I diligently downloaded the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ‘Global Alcohol Action Plan’ and sure enough, there on page 17, under the section ‘Action area 2: Advocacy, awareness and commitment’, I found the following: “Appropriate attention should be given to prevention of the initiation of drinking among children and adolescents, prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age…”

Is the global agency charged with promoting good public health across the world seriously suggesting that women from say, 18 to 50 years old, should be prevented from enjoying a gin and tonic or a cold beer? It seems so. This plan – the first draft at least – reduces women to nothing more than breeders, receptacles waiting to be impregnated. We are to keep our bodies pristine in case a man decides to use us for procreation. It’s institutional misogyny on a global scale.

But don’t take the word of a post-menopausal old crone whose idea of the perfect night in (or out) is a bottle of Portuguese red. The eminent charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service was even more scathing of WHO’s latest public health pronouncement.

Its Chief Executive, Clare Murphy, called on WHO to review the document urgently and said, “It is extremely disturbing to see the World Health Organization risk hard-won women’s rights by attempting to control their bodies and choices in this way. By treating all women – for 40 years of their lives – as little more than vessels, the WHO reduces women to little more than their reproductive capabilities.”

And she went on to point out that the report doesn’t address alcohol’s “true impact” on women. “In the UK alone, more than a third of sexual assaults, more than 39 per cent of all violent crimes, and nearly 1 in 5 incidents of domestic abuse are committed under the influence of alcohol. This action plan had the power to address this harm to women – but instead was silent.”

Let that sink in. A report on the global impact of alcohol was “silent” on the subject of drink-related violence against women and girls, preferring to focus instead on controlling women’s behaviour.

No-one is denying that drinking while pregnant can be harmful to a foetus. Recent research by UK charity, National FASD, which campaigns for the prevention of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), shows that 1.8 per cent of school children have FASD.

But by suggesting that all women of child-bearing age should be stopped from enjoying a glass of wine, regardless of whether they have any intention of ever becoming pregnant, the world’s health agency has reduced half the population to nothing more than natal slaves. It’s the Handmaid’s Tale as public policy.

The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) also decided to display its institutional misogyny this week. This prestigious organisation, which boasts that it exists to “champion art and artists” has banned Jess de Wahls’ stunning textiles from its shop, claiming that she is “an artist representing transphobic views.”

This is the same Royal Academy that promotes the work of one Eric Gill, an artist whose sexual abuse of his own daughters is now almost as well known as the typeface Gill Sans he designed.

His meticulous diaries, which he kept from the age of 15 to 58, revealed that he regularly sexually abused his two daughters and his sister. Yet this monster’s work is revered, while de Wahls has been shunned by the arts establishment. Her crime? Last year she signed a letter in support of JK Rowling, who herself was accused of transphobia for daring to assert women’s sex-based rights in a powerful essay.

One of de Wahls’ most popular items is an embroidery patch bearing the legend ‘Heretic’. Women have snapped it up, wearing it with pride alongside the green, white, and purple colours of the first Suffragette movement. Forget handbags and high heels ­­– badges and ribbons are now the accessory of choice for women who believe that females are oppressed because of their biological sex.

Only a few years ago, this feminist analysis, based on robust economic, biological, and cultural evidence, was accepted by almost everyone, including the World Health Organisation. It is now considered blasphemy by many in power, captivated by a new gender ideology that has reduced femaleness to nothing more than theatre.

Biological women have been put in their place. We are the world’s handmaids, to be kept in subjugation while fertile and dismissed as we grow old. Our art is considered heretical. Women artists and writers are shunned for daring to express their female experience, while abusive, violent men are lionised.

I want to write about the Lib Dems winning a by-election in the Home Counties, about the global pandemic, about anything but the misogyny that still infects our daily lives. I may have a long wait.

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