Edinburgh councillor victim of ‘online threats’ since election

Eleanor Bird has received online threats since being elected.
Eleanor Bird has received online threats since being elected.

“Me too” isn’t just a hashtag. It isn’t just a trend or a fad that will wither and fade away.

“Me too” is a lived experience and as such, must not be reduced to an exception.

Eleanor Bird

Eleanor Bird

It should instead be heralded as the abrupt but considered condemnation of the normalised behaviour of 21st century sexism.

To me, this is based on the belief that women and girls already enjoy equality and that thanks to their continual pesky pursuit of feminism, have missed the social equilibrium that has been achieved around them.

It seems as every year passes there’s another element of exploitation, abuse and discrimination exposed as we again ask ourselves “Can this really still be happening in 2017?” And 2016 before it, and 2015 before that…

It was of course the reprehensible actions of a Hollywood producer that precipitated this most recent reaction to 21st century sexism. As a former actor for a period in my early 20s, the experiences of female objectification now being articulated have been of an all too familiar feel to me.

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It was when working in hospitality throughout my studies however, that I was asked for sexual favours by chefs and after refusing was ignored, declined food and victimised by the perpetrator/s sometimes for months; slapped on a woefully predictable part of my anatomy by a manager and told girls don’t work behind the bar making cocktails but rather serving on the floor and told I’d make a “good wife” at a stag do by providing food and booze.

And then there’s political life, my current calling. “You’re too young to be a councillor” is a repeatedly pleasurable phrase to hear. Disregarding of a normative framework as I am, this logic laden observation serves only to support the need for a changed notion of women in politics, young women in politics and women on the whole.

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It seems few politicians remain untouched by prolific online trolls. Diane Abbott, the first black woman elected to Westminster (in the year I was born), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and MSPs Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson have all received both death and rape threats whilst others are subjected to an endless stream of misogyny and intimidation.

Since being elected I’ve been initiated to the destructive and cowardly phenomenon of anonymous online abuse. Female colleagues and myself have been described as “clueless”, “flighty”, “useless” and unable to write our own names.

Why are we still having to publicise the reasons that abuse/bullying/antagonism of this kind is unacceptable?

Most politicians often say they chose the vocation because they wanted to help people, and I am dedicated to helping the people of Forth and Edinburgh tackle inequality head-on for a fairer, more inclusive society. The abuse thrown at me and my colleagues is nothing new. Women have long been targeted by a minority of men who, through their own inadequacies, feel threatened by women taking part in society. It is only through full female participation that the balance will begin to tip.

In the meantime, if anyone thinks by writing threatening or abusive comments about me on an anonymous, online blog is going to stop me working hard for the people who elected me – they should think again.

So when a woman tells you she’s been molested, a colleague tells you he’s been intimidated or a friend tells you “Me too”, take up the fight because one day it might be you.