Many women are now rightly saying the problem of violence against women is for men to fix.
Approximately one woman a day is murdered by a man in the UK. Nationally girls complain about their treatment by boys in schools, about being touched inappropriately, about the things they are called and told to be, and do.
Shetland has a woman’s refuge for a reason. It is more than time for us to be better men, brave enough, regardless of the social consequences, to call out toxic masculinity, misogyny and sexism in all their forms.
We know that in Shetland we have a specific problem. The exclusion of women and girls from Up Helly Aa is not seen as harmful, no matter that is tells boys they matter more and girls they matter less.
Our council, ignoring various obligations on them, fully supports Lerwick Up Helly Aa. And our council, police and health service also pick up the pieces of the harm done to men and women by our needlessly sexist society.
Be in no doubt, displaying male superiority by marching down our streets and into our schools in exclusively male bodies results indirectly in many harms including violence and suppression. If this epidemic of violence against women is to end, each of us need to look into ourselves and see the ways we support and benefit from patriarchy.
We need to own the times we have abused our power and privileges. We need to challenge and change our own thinking, and end the ‘ poor men’ mantras. We need to be prepared to learn, engage and educate.
If you are in any doubt that condoning sexism blights lives, please read this plea recently made by many reputable organisations for schools to tackle gender stereotypes which cause “serious long-lasting harm” to girls and boys through childhood and into adulthood.
Our community leaders, Beatrice Wishart MSP, Alistair Carmichael MP, SIC convener Malcolm Bell and all our councillors, should now take the time to look into the research from the Fawcett Society that informed the above article, and reappraise their public positions on the discrimination against women and girls, which, remarkably, they continue to condone.
Let us lend them our voices by standing up, being counted and demanding change so that they are obliged to help our communities understand the need for change.
The UHA committee have plenty of time to make the minor adjustments necessary before the next galley burning, and it is a simple and easy step for our leaders to say they will only support a more inclusive, less harmful festival in the future.
Woman and girls in Shetland have asked to be included in this remarkable community celebration for decades. As fathers, sons, partners and friends it is high time we heeded their call.