On the same day Bill Cosby was sentenced to prison and finally convicted of drugging and raping Andrea Constand after 60 similar accusations had mounted against him, Ann Widdecombe sat on the This Morning sofa and claimed that the #MeToo Movement was little but ‘trivial whining’.
‘Women have never had it so good,’ the former Tory MP claimed as she harked back to her days as a graduate and experience growing up. In a patronisingly smug attack on today’s women, she seemed to praise her own ability to overcome the obstacles that had been placed in her path and claimed that today’s women were not wanting a level playing field but one tilted in their favour. Referencing the job advertisements of her time that were able to openly discriminate against women, Ann claimed that because such posters no longer existed, neither did such discrimination. Needless to say, her insight was blind and ill thought through.
The daughter of a Foreign Secretary living in the South of England, Ann failed to see that her experience growing up, albeit in an earlier decade, still had the potential to be far more privileged and cushy than the world many of today’s women face. Ann’s ‘playing field’ was far from level with the rest of British women then, or now for that matter. Her view that if things were now going well for her, then things were going well for women, could not be more narrow-minded and self-centred.
Reducing the #MeToo Movement to a group of women ‘wanting to be victimised’, Ann lambasted it as ‘trivial whining’ and a bunch of overdue complaints about men who had once put their arm around a woman. Maybe Ann’s experience of inappropriate behaviour and being made to feel uncomfortable by a man only did go as far as an unwanted hand position. That’s great, good for her, she will never know the horrors she has escaped. But could she really not open her eyes and see that her experiences being so ‘minor’ and ‘trivial’ does not change the reality that other women face of being abused and raped. Could she really not see that reducing their stories, questioning their seriousness and, in doing so, their truth, she played a dangerous role in double glazing that glass ceiling that she claims the women of her time had smashed.
Ann might not see discrimination in the shape it used to take. But it is still here. For some people, to a much lesser extent, and to others, impossible to ignore. One woman’s experience does not define the rest and we should not stop when just a few of us are in the clear.