(Rebecca Dyer, Student Director and Student Advisor)

In this mini-series of posts, the women of the clinic discuss the theme of ‘Break the Bias’, what this means to them, what International Women’s Day means to them, and experience they have that resonates with this year’s theme.

A happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month to everyone! Personally, International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month allows me to celebrate all women, remember our monumental journey, as well as being inspired by and celebrating all women who have fought for women’s rights around the world. It is also a time for me to remember that, while we have come so far, there is still so much more that needs to be changed.

I have been incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to have experienced many different things in life, such as living in the Middle East, travelling and being able to try new skills and sports. I am forever grateful to be surrounded by a very supportive network of family, friends, work colleagues, mentors and tutors who always encourage me to reach my goals and aspirations.

However, like all women, I have experienced bias because of my gender from a young age. This bias that I have experienced takes the form of harassment, misogyny, sexism, prejudice, and discrimination, and they have occurred while I have been working, while I have been out with my friends and family, while I have been sitting in a coffee shop, while I have been training in the gym, and while I have been walking down the street. When I first started to experience being undermined, undervalued, and objectified because of my gender, the realisation of what occurred did not happen until the hours, or days afterwards. I would get angry and would tell myself that the next time I had another experience, that I would speak up and demand the respect I deserved. Eventually, as I got older and more confident, I was able to do this, and with a womanly superiority too, if I do not say so myself! In doing this, I am always reminded by Maya Angelou’s quote:

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

It makes me sad that these experiences signify some of what all women have to endure on a daily basis, and for minority ethnic woman, disabled women, trans women and lesbians, the impact of such bias is exacerbated. Some women also face domestic violence and sexual abuse. Although, with that sadness, comes determination and motivation to strive and fight for change: we must break the bias to ensure equality for all women and girls, and breaking the bias must mean a complete eradication of misogyny, prejudice, discrimination, outdated gender stereotypes and sexism, or it will mean nothing.

In striving to break the bias, we must acknowledge that the bias we seek to break is deep-rooted in society. We must also acknowledge the historic and contemporary injustices against all women. This is an integral part of urging society to change its attitudes and culture towards all women. Historically, for me, I am constantly reminded of the suffering of many women who were convicted and executed under the Witchcraft Acts just for being women, as I drive over the symbolic Horseshoe Memorial in Paisley almost every day. Contemporarily, I am reminded that the same form of bias against women which was the direct cause for many executions under the now abolished Witchcraft Acts, still remains significant in today’s society. My friends and I often find ourselves talking about our struggles as women and being subjected to same underlying misogyny.

These engrained societal attitudes towards women have resulted in systematic underrepresentation, particularly in workplaces and in more senior roles. These attitudes have also resulted in women being undervalued and having their contributions to society being undervalued (for example, as of 2022, women lawyers are paid 21% less than men lawyers in Scotland). Moreover, these attitudes have left all women living in fear of harassment, abuse, domestic violence, sexual violence, and murder. All women should not have to endure this or adapt their behaviours for protection, and these attitudes should have absolutely no place in society. Why? Because Women’s Rights are Human Rights!

We must also acknowledge and celebrate our progress as a gender, too. The steady increase of women in more senior roles in politics, business, as well as authors, poets and increased activism has allowed society to hear us. Law reforms such as free period products and reforms on domestic abuse have also advanced our rights as women. To all women past and present who have paved the way for progress and further change, I thank you. Thanks to you, we are taking the important steps towards being treated equally without bias, and that glass ceiling has more cracks on it than ever.

However, there is still work to do, as better representation is not equal representation. As women, both individually and collectively, we need to continue to assert our rights and strive for change because we must (and I mean, everyone in society) build a society where all women feel safe and can be themselves, as well as having no limits in living our lives. A society where all women do not feel safe, do not have equal pay, and do not have equal opportunities, is not one in which everyone is equal. Society cannot allow these injustices to continue on to the next generation, and so we must use the power of the law to drive the social and cultural changes us women so deservedly need. As Gloria Steinem said:

“One of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.”

And so, my final statement is this:

Women do not need to change, society does.

Women do not need to listen, society does.

Women do not need to unlearn behaviour, society does

Women’s Rights are Human Rights, and there is nothing that will stop us from fighting for what we deserve.

By Rebecca Dyer, Student Director and Student Advisor.

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