Friday, 1 May 2009

Gender injustice: a deliberate irony?

ducking stool sign

This collection of signs is to be found on the corner of the ladies public toilets in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.  When I first saw it I just could not believe that anyone could be so insensitive as to put such a blatant reminder of gender injustice in such a place: a ducking stool remembered on this of all buildings. On reflection perhaps it is the best place for it to be. The bitter irony makes a sharp point. A local guide says that Duck Street was "the site of the old ducking stool for the “wet punishment of scolds” in the River Isbourne."  Women would be subjected to this cruel and unusual public punishment by the misogynist male system of justice which prevailed at the time.

ducking-stool

BBC Radio 4 carries a fascinating piece about the use of ducking stools.  Sadly such mistreatment of women is not relegated to history. The wicked law enacted by  Harmid Karzai rightly drew outrage from the international community because it spelled utter misery for Afghan women. Why is it that here, single, unmarried mothers on benefits can expect to be stigmatised as a political matter of course or that women in work so often still earn less than their male counterparts?

Ducking stools are long gone, but what of the the way that women are seen by men?

This is an altogether more troubling question. One which needs to be signposted and which requires justice, not irony.

At least Carol Ann Duffy has today been named as the first female Poet laureate in 341 years. My, isn't progress swift.... 

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