'Online abuse doesn't stop at the playground. It's on your phone, in your bedroom' - Yvette Cooper MP
Former Labour frontbencher Yvette Cooper was joined by a panel of experts to discuss the challenges to gender equality at an NASUWT event at the Labour conference.
Some of the leading voices on equality got together at Labour fringe to discuss gender inequality, especially in education.
The fringe meeting heard shocking statistics and emotional stories, including an audience member who spoke about how inspired she felt after hearing the speakers, especially after she had been stalked.
The General Secretary of the NASUWT teachers' Union Chris Keates explained that we are all part of a “global challenge” to change inequality, especially through the work place
She attacked the Conservative Government for not furthering achievements the Labour party made in their time in government.
“If we look at the last 30 years you can see great achievements in education. There were gender specific plans in place. That was the case until 2010. I don’t need to tell you what happened after 2010.
“We want to see how the Prime Minister’s words translate into something tangible for the work place.”
Speaking about the pay gap, she said: “It exists and is widening.”
Yvette Cooper said that in the teaching profession there can be a “toxic combination” of ageism and sexism.
Another issue which was discussed at length during the fringe was the problem of gendered online abuse, which Sam Smethers of the Fawcett Society said we have a “phenomenal problem” with in society.
“Women and girls are the main targets of abuse online”, she said, adding that young women were disproportionately being harassed.
She said the key thing with online abuse is the sheer scale of it and how ill equipped we are to deal with it.
“The guidance is out of date and at the moment we haven’t got a true picture of abuse.”
Ms Smethers also spoke about how it affected school children.
It is shocking, she said, that online abuse had become normalised into school abuse.
The conclusion of which, she added, is that girls are not participating properly.
Ms Cooper explained how much online abuse affects school children:
“At least abuse in schools stops when you leave the playground. When it’s online, it’s always with you. It’s on your phone, it’s in your home, in your bedroom.”
Ms Keates added that it is not just school children who are affected, teachers are also targeted and it is “blighting” their lives.
Speaking about the problems the Labour party have had with female MPs being abused, Ms Cooper said her party had to “put their own house in order”.
She added that her party should be leading on this and then they can look at everyone else.
“How can we [lead] if we are being abused?”
She called for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to call out online abuse through their twitter accounts.
Ms Cooper also hit out at Mr McDonnell for saying that Esther McVey should be lynched.
She said: “People do say stupid things sometimes, but then they have to withdraw them.
“You do not call for someone to be lynched and if you do you call to apologise"
“We have always been champions of women and equality – we can’t allow that to be discredited and women’s voices to be drowned out.
“I don’t care who the online abuse is coming from, I want it to stop.”
An audience member asked a question in which she referenced the problems in the Labour party, saying: “I’m worried our party is becoming an unsafe place for women.”
A part of online abuse is revenge porn, something the Government recently made illegal, but Ms Cooper believes there is much more to be done.
She called for victims of revenge porn to be anonymous, and said current legislation is “out of date”.
The Labour MP also asked “what more can be done for prevention?” One point raised was how to engage with men about gender equality. An audience member asked how they could get more males to come to debate like the NASUWT event itself, to have these conversations.
Ms Smethers responded she felt concerned men are being forced from an early age to behave in a certain way. She said that men are “trapped” and “need to be given permission to be men in their own way”.
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