As we hope most people who read our blogs would have noticed, this week marked the centenary of women first gaining the right to vote. At Atlas we were happy to see the media, rightly, make a big deal of this important anniversary, although the contrast in approach told us a lot about media priorities.
The event featured heavily on the front pages, with features from The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Sun and The i, all focusing on different aspects of what it means 100 years on. The Telegraph displayed a historic photo of Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney next to a headline saying that Suffragette’s should be pardoned posthumously. The Sun advertised their 8-page special, celebrating 100 years of the women’s vote, with a photo of a women in lingerie. We weren’t quite sure of the relevance, but given The Sun’s reputation, it’s almost a surprise that they didn’t bring back Page 3 nipples for the day.
In stark contrast, Time Out put thank you messages at the front and centre of their issue, with an article on 63 women helping to change perceptions today, who thanked the heroines that led the way before them. Amongst those expressing their gratitude were Diane Abbott, Sophie Walker, Laura Bates and Gemma Arterton. Stylist went one further and dedicated their whole issue to ‘Celebrating 100 years of Women’s Suffrage’, brandishing the phrase “let's finish what they started” on the front of the magazine – in an issue that for some will be a collector’s item. They linked the past of the Suffragette movement to current issues of the pay gap and online abuse and showed that the best way of honouring those women is to look to the future.
With a focus on looking forwards, The Guardian had five writers share their views on whether they think we will have gender parity 100 years from now. Margaret Atwood and Lola Okolosie argued that equality will rely on progress in the workplace, such as when becoming a mother does not set back a person's earnings or career. Polly Toynbee wasn’t confident about equality being easy to achieve. She said recent events such as the #MeToo movement and the end of grid girls in Formula One were important but were just small steps of which there need to be many more.
One of these steps was noticed in our office, when Tuesday’s Today Programme had an all female show to commemorate the centenary. It’s currently noteworthy when female voices take centre stage, but this will change as we deal with the issues of mistreatment and lack of representation of women in the media. Many people found it a refreshing change, much to the annoyance of Ross Clark who complained in The Spectator that the programme “has become Woman’s Hour”. The next day Jo Swinson, spurred on by this display of sisterhood, asked John Humphrys if he had apologised to Carrie Gracie following his leaked conversation about her. Humphrys’ grumpy reaction had most commentators praising Swinson for her boldness.
Theresa May told aspiring female politicians they do not need to be “a stereotype of a man” as she talked about the increased abuse that particularly women politicians face. Unfortunately, as we have bemoaned before, the increasing number of female MPs has been matched by an uptick in threats, particularly due to the rise of social media. On Tuesday, many commentators responded to this, saying we need to make women feel comfortable “sticking their heads above the parapets” as the Suffragette’s once did. Hopefully before we reach bicentenary, women putting themselves in the public eye won’t need to be described with a metaphor about war!