A rough week for women

It’s been a rough week for women. But then, it so often is. A swift swipe through social media before your coffee is enough to put you off getting out of bed at all.

This morning, for instance, my eyes lit up at the news that MasterCard are standing up for women and girls by insisting that each and every video on OnlyFans needed clear, unambiguous consent from the portrayed body as wll as confirmation of age before they would allow their cards to be used to pay for any porn. As OnlyFans cannot provide these verifications, they will be throwing their porn-baby out with the bathwater, and from October will only allow still images. Then my heart sank when I dived deeper into the rabbit hole and saw grown women, ‘sex workers’. condemning the move which is aimed at making a stand against child sex abuse and trafficking – because it will deplete their income stream.

Abuse on video

Scroll on a little further and I spy a story of a woman in Pakistan, a Tik Tok mini celebrity, who ventured out with her friends to make a video, only to be mobbed and sexually assaulted by around 400 men. That’s right, 400 men. They stripped her and tossed her around the crowd, like some ragdoll at a rock concert, tearing out her earrings, ripping off her rings, filming it, of course. Reading through the tweets of outrage and support and you soon find the ones saying, “what was the context?” as if any context would make this ok, and “she should have known better,” “don’t forget, men also rescued her,” and “if this was true, she’d have been murdered.”

At this point, coffee becomes essential. In the kitchen, I hear Mishal ‘tackling’ the OnlyFans issue on the Today programme. She didn’t interview an expert on the harms of trafficking and coercion or rape and child sex abuse. Instead she invited ‘queer sex worker’ Tilly Lawless to rage and outrage on the matter, claiming that age verification exists, and that anyhoo kids can just use their parents’ credit cards to sign up…

Most of us have been horrified to see the very clear and present danger falling like a suffocating blue cloth over the women of Afghanistan. We have flinched and wept at the news footage, desperately wondered what we in the West can do to help these souls, abandoned on a whim by the Old Men in charge over here to the Old Men taking charge over there.

A similar road

We may have made correlations between the insidious silencing of women here and the spray can blackouts, the house arrests, the violent assaults those women are experiencing there. Not the same by any means, but perhaps at a different stage of a similar road?

We could have considered the actions of Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and wondered if he’d read the Forstater ruling before he sacked Joan Smith from her position as co-chair of the violence against women and girls (VAWG) board.

We may have wondered what the BBC Sports and the Welsh Government twitter feeds meant when they warned that they’d be reporting hate speech (or rather, speech they hate) to the authorities – what can, and can’t, we say when raising our concerns about women’s rights?

We may be puzzled when we see comments from a prominent female Welsh politician urging solidarity with Afghan women, yet remember clearly just a couple of weeks back, her statement that women’s spaces do not need protecting, and whosoever thinks otherwise must be a bigot.

Then, I read the tweet that states, without a shadow of irony, that the UN Commission on the Status of Women has offered Afghanistan a seat at its table for the first time since 1946.

And I realise.

It’s been a rough week for women. But then, it so often is.