As a woman in her forties, I think the future’s in safe hands

I can now think about the possibility of my daughters living in a world where they can speak out without the risk of losing jobs and friends
Content TeamBy Content Team  •  Jan 19, 2018 at 3:56pm  •  Feminism, Human Rights, Rape

Watching Oprah Winfrey giving her Golden Globes award speech with my daughters aged 18 and 13,
I found myself feeling completely overwhelmed with the sense of change. Time’s up for the those
people with advantage who will no longer have the luxury of knowing that their victims will not
remain silent.

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, sexual harassment and violence was accepted and
covered up by families, work colleagues, friends and partners who simply couldn’t speak out. This
seems very bizarre now, watching the women of Hollywood start a revolution – but it was impossible
to call it out. This transcended all classes, race, and careers and was an everyday occurrence for
many. Women simply put up with it and were forced to use the only currency available to them to
improve their lives: the way they looked.

In recent years there has been change in lots of areas and I am grateful that I work in a different environment now. As a woman in my 40s, the quiet undertone of everyday sexism is now my fight. As damaging and infuriating as it can be it doesn’t, for me, have the same physical sense of sexual violence and long lasting trauma that I experienced in the past.

Women of my generation have a mixed up perception of sisterhood, although I think we might be
starting to get it. Our role models were the ladettes of the 90s who were free to live their lives as they pleased, but they forgot to address the underlying issues of objectification and sexual exploitation. Page 3  was a national institution and no women (or man) I know ever discussed or recognised the harmful effects it was having. With sexual freedom came a whole host of negatives manufactured by the media and perpetuated by those who benefitted.

 

President Barack Obama awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Oprah Winfrey (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

 

In my twenties and early thirties I was sexually harassed in the work place, groped in bars
and was sexually assaulted by a doctor. After many years I have finally come to terms with the
experiences – I realise how wrong it was and more importantly, how faultless I was. It is a
journey of discovery and one that I am happy to be on, as hard as it can be at times. The shame I
have felt in the past is now gone.

Today, we have the chance to make it better for all genders. I can now think about the
possibility of my daughters living in a world where they can speak out without the risk of losing jobs and friends. They may even live in a world where sexual harassment and violence will be socially thought
of in the same way as all serious crime. Women will be free and supported in their choices to dress
and act how they please, without fearing the consequence of unwanted sexual advances. The lessons
we now need to teach our young daughters about handling these situations will be a thing of the past.

I think we owe a huge debt to Donald Trump. Without him and his ‘pussy grabbing’ I don’t think women would be feeling as brave and empowered. He highlighted and brought to the foreground what everyone knew was going on. We were on the edge of the waterfall and we have been pushed over.

 

Kay Hattam

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