Female councillors targeted for sexist abuse

Councillor Eleanor Bird has suffered online abuse
Councillor Eleanor Bird has suffered online abuse

A WOMAN councillor has lifted the lid on the regular diet of sexist abuse she says she has been subjected to since first being elected six months ago.

She said: “I have been targeted because I am a young woman.”

But she insisted she would not be deterred from working hard to represent the people who elected her.

In an article for the Evening News, Cllr Bird also revealed how she was previously asked for sexual favours by chefs while working in the hospitality industry as a student.

Her dramatic revelations come as council leader Adam McVey insists the council will not tolerate sexual harassment and urged any employee who felt they were being subjected to inappropriate behaviour to report the matter.

He said: “We must continue to do everything in our power to make sure that the council is a workplace where everyone is supported, respected and not subjected to any form of abuse. It is vital to ensure that any individual who raises concerns have confidence that issues will be fully investigated in an appropriate manner.”

Cllr Bird said since before the local elections in May she had been subjected to repeated sexist abuse in an online blog, including “creepy” remarks which read like a “running commentary on my whereabouts”.

She said: “To feel like you’re being spied and reported back on in meetings and events in the ward and that your exact whereabouts are being chronicled is a disconcerting prospect and one which I would want no woman in any job to experience. The consistent abuse that’s been thrown at me has in many ways been a surprising element of being a councillor but in other ways it’s not surprising at all. A few men still think they can silence women with abusive, patronising and threatening behaviour and comments.

“It’s important to speak out against unacceptable and cowardly behaviour and I condemn in the strongest possible terms abuse directed at me, other women or anyone trying to serve their constituents. I’m encouraging everyone in our society to keep speaking out and challenge the all too common behaviour in our city.

“I am by no means the only person to have been targeted but I hope by bringing it to light, I can help to raise awareness of the ongoing abuse and intolerance perpetuated through attitudes like these.”

Unison’s Tom Connolly urged any council staff who had experienced sexual harassment to come forward and promised union support for members who had suffered such behaviour.

He said the union was re-issuing the anti-harassment policy to members in light of the current publicity.

“The majority of staff at the council are female and many of them are in low-paid jobs. A big part of the issue in the cases which have been highlighted is about power.

“We have not had members coming to us saying this is happening, but because the issue is getting so much coverage a lot of people will be thinking and talking about it.

“It’s something which is prevalent in all sectors and the potential is there, as in any other organisation.”

Green councillor Susan Rae recently complained of the macho atmosphere at the City Chambers, saying the door in felt like “a portal to 1977, not 2017” and describing how she “staggered from council meetings, dizzy and reeling from the scent of testosterone and seething ambition”.