The figure of Trump looms large over all of us as we prepare to March on London on Saturday. But new data revealed by the Fawcett Society today shows just how hostile our own society is towards women. It seems we have a few Trumps of our own.
We asked if a woman goes out late at night wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and is then is sexually assaulted, is she totally or partly to blame? We found that 38% of men and 34% of women think that she is. 14% of men aged 18-34 say she is totally to blame. Women aged over 55 were the most likely to blame her with 50% saying partly and 5% saying totally to blame. So, it seems, women are responsible for the behaviour of their attacker? Would that happen quite so readily with other crimes or if the victim was a man? We don't tell men to stay in after dark or watch what they wear yet for a woman the responsibility rests with her. The plain fact that he chooses to attack her is lost. This expectation that women must manage the response of men was also a common message in our focus groups with young women. They told us that they are blamed for provoking men by what they wear; if they are approached in a bar and say a polite 'no' it can quickly escalate in to verbal attacks or threats; it is the women who have to manage the situation.
Our research also found that the blame culture is matched by a mix of hostility and complacency. A stubborn minority of men don't want the women in their lives to have equality; 18% of men aged 25-34 and 14% of those aged 18-24 say this. 1 in 5 25-34 year old men think that equality has "gone too far" while over 4 in 10 men aged 18-24 think women and men are equal now. This hostility is what we see played out through social media, on our streets, in our university campuses and in our schools. These are findings from a Survation survey of over 8,000 people. We have to reflect on the fact that what it's revealing about our society is the unpleasant truth that a residual hostile minority holds us all back.
But there is hope. 48% of men aged 18-24 say they would benefit if we had a society where women and men were more equal. Young men were three times as likely to describe themselves as feminist as men in the wider population (11% vs 4%), and 8 in 10 of them do want the women in their lives to have equality of opportunity. Young men in particular are a polarised generation with some holding some of the most progressive views while others are clearly firmly in the Trump camp. Young women are the ones most likely to describe themselves as feminist and are also the ones at the sharp end of the harassment and abuse that women experience. 63% of 18-24 year olds have experienced some form of harassment or abuse at work vs 52% of women of all ages.
What young women were very clear about is that they just want the harassment to stop - educate not blame was the message coming from them. So fundamental to all of this is the need to provide good quality, age appropriate statutory sex and relationships education across all our schools. We echo the calls of many other organisations, politicians and campaigners. The Government must not fail to act. We have to ensure that young people understand consent and respect, so that we can begin to turn the tide of the harassment and lad culture that has now taken hold. Please Theresa May, do not let our young women down.
But it's not just our government who can act - we must all unite to keep women's rights on the political agenda and in the public eye. March if you can, or better still join a campaigning organisation like the Fawcett Society and join us in the fight against misogyny. Help us to see a society where we can all fulfil our potential, regardless of our sex.