I was delighted, and genuinely surprised, to be announced the winner of the inaugural Write to End Violence Against Women Awards in 2013.
Since then, Scotland has witnessed a dramatic shift in its political landscape, including some devastating critiques of mainstream media. Civic Scotland dusted off its ideas and flexed its debating muscles as the referendum campaign warmed up and new voices began to emerge.
Among those who “dared to dream” another “Scotland was possible” were women ready to challenge a macho culture once described as “cold and hostile to women’s lives and values”. Bloggers, freelance journalists, writers, artists and commentators created a new estate of citizen journalism.
The bandwidth broadened, women’s space for debate and critique opened up and all of a sudden it was open season on Scotland’s gender architecture. What the referendum started stubbornly refused to go away and the momentum has not diminished one jot.
Groups such as Women for Independence offer online and village hall platforms for women’s concerns and safe places to discuss them. What most Scottish women have known for years is now part of the national conversation: women are still not equal, get paid less than men, do most of the caring and have less political power than men. There is now growing public concern that children are growing up in a culture full of inequality, everyday sexism and violence against women.
The scandal of these forms of violence has now entered public debate, is has placed new demands on the media to bring their news values into the 21st century. The Write to End Violence Against Women Awards caught the zeitgeist in 2013 with demands the media raise the bar in coverage of violence against women. Now in 2015 there is a growing public appetite for debate on these issues and the old dismissals no longer wash.
People are joining the dots between women’s persistent inequality and the many forms of violence against women such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, prostitution and pornography. The prevalence of these crimes is a national scandal with no place in modern Scotland.
And despite the repealing of laws in the 20th century that enshrined women’s subordination, their legacy is a popular culture which continues to demean women, treat them as sex objects, in ways which subliminally reinforce women’s second-class status.
The good news is that some surprising heavy hitters are joining the fight-back. Media campaign, #WeCanStopIt, launched last week saw Rape Crisis Scotland and Police Scotland joining forces to get the message out over rape. #EndProstitutionNow, a campaigning coalition which aims to do what it says on the tin, is fronted by an on-message Glasgow councillor.
Gender is on the national agenda and violence against women is emerging from behind those closed doors to where it should be – right up front in the public eye.