BLAISE TAPP: 100 years on and there is still so much to be done

The Royal Mint of the Representation of the People Act 50p coin, one of the new UK coin designs for 2018. Picture: Royal Mint/PA Wire

This week much has rightly been made of the 100th anniversary of women officially being given the vote.  

This is a milestone worth commemorating especially as it comes at a time when the rights of women and girls are being debated as fiercely as they have been for a long time.

The centenary of the Representation of the People Act – which not only gave the vote to women but also to millions of men who had previously been barred from doing so – has been marked in many ways.

One such tribute is a commemorative 50p piece, which was unveiled by the great-granddaughter of leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

Anniversaries are all well and good and have always kept us journalists gainfully employed, but perhaps their most important purpose is to offer the wider public a chance for reflection.

If you cannot learn from the victories – not to mention the mistakes – of the past, then there is little point in marking these milestones at all.

It is fair to say that Britain in 2018 is a far better place for women and girls than it was in 1918, yet there is still much wrong with modern society.

It isn’t right that so many women have been subjected to sexual harassment or have been put into situations with which they are uncomfortable.

It isn’t right that there are a significant number of professions where women remain grossly underrepresented.

It isn’t right that women still feel that they must choose between their careers or having a family.

I say this not as a beard-stroking, skinny latte-supping pseudo-feminist, but as the father of a daughter who, in the next eight to 10 years, will go from being a little girl whose major concerns center around what she will spend her pocket money on to a teenager who will be stepping out into the world.

Like every parent, I want her to feel safe and have the same chance as every other young person.

But I also worry about what lies in wait for my young son, a little lad who isn’t yet out of nappies.

I worry that we live in a society where there is a very fixed preconceived idea of what a little boy should like and not like. My lad is every inch the little bruiser, built like a Tonka truck and in possession of an appetite which would make a Hungry Hippo blush.

Yet our boy has a thing about his sister’s doll’s house – the same sister who collects football stickers and Star Wars memorabilia.

At the weekend we inherited a pink doll along with matching pram, high chair and accessories, and he hasn’t left them alone since. Who cares?

If I am being brutally honest, I did pause for a split second and ask myself, ‘A doll? For my lad?’, then I remembered that he is two and what does it really matter what he plays with?

As a society, we have invested a lot of time and effort in telling girls that they can be whatever they want. That is absolutely the correct approach.

But my problem is that lads and young men are directed along a much narrower path, a path where boys become men. 'Real' men.

Our ancestors fought wars and political battles to ensure that our children – both girls and boys – are afforded the same opportunities.

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