Leader comment: Feminism is key to a brighter future

Girls growing up in Scotland should be able to look forward to a country where both genders are equal.

Charmaine Laurie received a visit from the First Minister after a video showing her driving skills went viral (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

Given the surge in interest in gender equality following widespread claims of sexual harassment, it is surprising that two out of five parents do not think feminism is relevant to their children.

The finding of a poll published to mark International Women’s Day might be explained by people giving different meanings to the word or viewing the movement in different ways. Chambers dictionary defines feminism as “a belief or movement advocating the cause of women’s rights and opportunities, particularly equal rights with men, by challenging inequalities between the sexes in society”. There seems little to disagree with there. And, judging by the persistant gender pay gap and women’s stories of appalling abuse at the hands of men in the workplace and online, there seems little doubt that we have not achieved gender equality.

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Consider, for example, the foul-mouthed, hate-filled and deeply misogynistic abuse directed at SNP MP Mhairi Black, which she told the House of Commons she was faced with “every day, day in, day out”. That is not something male politicians tend to experience.

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It is possible that a perception of feminism as a left-wing cause has given it a bit of a public relations problem in attempting to appeal to those on the right. However, that idea appears to be changing rapidly. Labour MP Harriet Harman this week highlighted the number of Conservative MPs who are feminists and “very different from the doughty tweedy matrons of the past. These MPs are more modern, and people that we, as Labour women, can work cross-party with”.

Scotland has been particularly blessed with the quality of women politicians, with Nicola Sturgeon’s performances in general election TV debates winning numerous fans in England and Ruth Davidson repeatedly touted as a future Tory party leader. And Charmaine Laurie, the Lothian Buses driver whose skill at the wheel prevented a potentially serious road accident during the recent snow, demonstrated just how ridiculous supposed jokes about “women drivers” are.

Every girl growing up should realise they could end up being a future First Minister or a bus driver or whatever career they are best suited to. Restricting girls’ opportunities with sexist myths not only harms them, but the country as a whole. So the basic definition of feminism is surely something we can all agree on.