‘IT CAN BE TOUGH – BUT NO ONE IS FORCE-FEED­ING ME IN PRISON’

Labour MP Jess Phillips says 2018 should be a year of ac­tion to stamp out sex­ual ha­rass­ment

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - The Gh Report -

When I was a kid grow­ing up in Birm­ing­ham, fem­i­nism was not an ab­stract the­ory – it was a prac­ti­cal way of life. My first nurs­ery was set up to help women go back to work; it was called The Women’s Lib­er­a­tion Play Group. Groups of women would of­ten be in my fam­ily’s kitchen plot­ting their next moves to get more women elected or bet­ter ser­vices for vic­tims of vi­o­lence.

My mem­ory of the fem­i­nist move­ment I grew up around was of sis­ter­hood. Of laugh­ing to­gether when things were ridicu­lous, of cry­ing to­gether when tragedy struck, and these women were there in my house hold­ing each other, be­ing each other’s foun­da­tions. These women built me.

My place in the House of Com­mons as MP for Birm­ing­ham Yard­ley helps me

to fight for bet­ter ser­vices for vic­tims of do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence, and to seek so­lu­tions for is­sues like the pay gap. It is a chance to be a per­son with the power to say to women, ‘I hear you.’ My po­si­tion means I can am­plify the voices of other peo­ple, to tell sto­ries and cre­ate space so that the real lives, which some flinch away from, can be laid bare.

This all sounds em­pow­er­ing (and it is great!) but my voice means I’m a threat to those who still think women should be seen and not heard. The on­line world has given a space to peo­ple who feel threat­ened by pow­er­ful women. That can be tough but – un­like the suf­fragettes – no one is force-feed­ing me in a prison, I don’t have to throw my­self un­der a horse, and I haven’t had to chain my­self to any rail­ings.

I do, though, of­ten visit the broom cup­board in Par­lia­ment where Emily

Wild­ing Dav­i­son hid on the night of the cen­sus in 1911. It is a tiny cup­board in a hid­den corridor where she slept so that a woman could be listed in Par­lia­ment. Emily died two years later when she ran un­der the King’s horse at the Ep­som Derby, so women like me could roar; I won’t let her down just be­cause a few Twit­ter trolls give me grief.

So 2018 must be the year of ac­tion. We must turn the brav­ery of the thou­sands of women say­ing #metoo into real, tan­gi­ble change. In Par­lia­ment, we must not sim­ply cel­e­brate the mile­stone of women’s suf­frage with­out also act­ing to change a cul­ture that has al­lowed sex­ual ha­rass­ment and the con­trol of young women in that very build­ing. We must keep be­ing an­gry, keep speak­ing up and protest­ing, and con­tinue to de­mand change.

We must keep on be­ing an­gry

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