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On Saturday afternoon my daughter and I took part in a Slutwalk in Glasgow. This movement started in Toronto where a Police Officer told women to stop dressing like sluts if they didn’t want to be raped. The chant of the protesters on Saturday was, “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no”. It is strong and assertive – exactly what women should be regardless of age or situation and I was proud to take part; proud to walk beside a group of men and women who were supporting a woman’s right to choose and especially proud to be walking with my fifteen-year old daughter.

But I was also heartbroken.

I remember the seventies. I remember when most sit-coms were populated by leering men and women who were either harridans or dolly-birds whose brains shrunk with their hemlines. I remember when it was OK to ask a woman in a job interview whether she intended to marry and have children. I remember when paying women less for the same job was OK and when being called ‘love’ was short-hand for second class.

I did my bit in the fight for change. It wasn’t much compared to my braver, more confident sisters, but I refused to be patronised, ‘touched up’, objectified and worked hard to be taken seriously at work. Then I thought that while we may not have won every battle, we had made massive improvements in women’s position in society and I relaxed. But over the past couple of years I have seen things to make me question my complacency.

Stores have sold padded bras and thongs for pre-teens; Photoshop has been used to make women look so unrealistically thin and perfect that our daughters are killing themselves in trying to emulate them; an insurance company laid on hookers as a reward for their top sales men.

I don’t want to legislate against craic, banter, flirtation: these should all be a fun part of life, but there is a line where it has to stop. I don’t want to stop saying mankind, man-hours, manpower – these are trivial things and do nothing to persecute women. I do want to protect young women from men who think they should be thin and willing whenever they are called. And why should our sons think anything else? Look at music videos and listen to the lyrics of most hip-hop. Women are shown as nothing short of soft porn stars and referred to as ho’s and bitches. There is no respect.

Let us teach our sons to be strong enough respect girls, to value them as people and accept their decisions. Let us teach our daughters to be strong enough to value themselves and to make their own decisions.

And let’s also hope that our daughters won’t have to walk beside their own daughters to reclaim their right to be believed when they say no.
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