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Why feminism is more important than ever in 2023

Women have always been fighting for their rights, and the string of violence and crime over the past few years shows an even greater need for it.

Sarah Everard’s murder by a Met Police officer sparked a movement around women’s public safety. Vigils and protests were held and two years later the force was condemned for routine sexism.

Women are now less likely to report a sexual assault to the police. The fear of walking the streets of England alone and constant sexism demonstrate that women need to fight for their rights now more than ever.

‘I think it’s a terrible time now in society for women,’ says international feminist attorney Ann Olivarius. ‘We have girls coming here who have been sexually assaulted, and sexual assault is an epidemic.’

‘We have a huge screaming need for a women’s movement to tackle those issues, and the men should be joining it too. It should be a men’s and women’s movement.’

Ann has spent over four decades tackling cases from human rights abuses to racial and gender discrimination, sexual assault and rape. From working during the second wave to now, she says her work is still as difficult as it’s always been.

‘For women who are sexually discriminated against, it goes against your self-esteem and makes you feel like you’re less of a person, that somehow it was your fault,’ says Ann, ‘If you’re raped, it’s your fault, you dress wrongly, you had a drink, whatever, it is it’s your fault.’

‘It’s really hard for, I think, to be a woman and to have it all and try to have it all, there’s not a lot of support.’

In England and Wales, more than 99% of rapes reported to the police do not end in a conviction because of a criminal justice system that makes prosecuting rape extremely rare, lengthy, and difficult.

‘You cannot get a conviction for rape in America or Britain unless you’ve got Sister Mary Angelica watching the rape, she’s protesting, she’s a virgin whilst she’s getting raped, and he’s got her at knifepoint, then you can get a conviction,’ says Ann. ‘You can’t get convictions for rape, that whole law doesn’t exist, and it defies and hurts women.’

‘Good luck sweetheart.’

From bringing cases to decriminalise abortion to handling cases related to gender pay ‘all the time’ and litigating against ‘Bro Central’ (Silicon Valley), Ann is constantly fighting for women’s rights.

But it’s hard to fight in a society that’s always been unfair to them.

Since the 1950s, women have gone from “Miss” to “Mrs”, are ‘saddled’ with the children and are expected to manage the household. Ann argues that fathers should also have just as much paternity leave as women so they can bond with their kids.

‘If women are seen to be the main carers of children, then they’re never going to have the kind of careers that many of us would like to have because you’ve got this really big extra obligation in life,’ says Ann. ‘It’s so important, but you don’t have that, and men have to participate in that if you want to have children.’

‘In this country, we’re like a backward city here, what’s going on?’

The lawyer points out Sweden’s laws, where parents are given 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. Whereas in the UK, only around three in seven families are eligible for shared parental leave; of those, only about 1% have any shared leave.

For women who want to try to advance in their careers and get the top jobs, less than a third of the UK’s top jobs are held by women, including just eight at the head of FTSE 100 firms. Men still outnumber women in positions of power by a ratio of two to one.

‘Their whole lifestream and in careers, women are not being progressed,’ says Ann. ‘Why are women having those problems?’

Ann also points out the lack of education about women’s sexual pleasure, that ‘it’s not just about inserting your penises’. She blames the level of porn ‘saturating minds’.

‘Nobody educated on sex by watching porn is going to learn how to please a woman,’ says Ann. ‘That doesn’t make any sense.’

Men orgasm four times as much as women on average, having many feeling frustrated and disappointed and have gotten used to it. Sex expert Alix Fox says women tend to have been taught that their sexual role is to prioritise giving pleasure to men rather than receiving and sharing it in return.

Ann believes teaching women about sexuality could create a new women’s movement for sexual freedom and sexual intelligence. ‘I think we really need to educate our women on that, I think, and that’s going to change the world,’ she says.

All these instances of inequality clearly show that women constantly have to fight to have an equal footing, and it shows we still need protests and vigils to get our voices heard.

‘The world is changing, but is it changing for the better, it doesn’t seem to be,’ says Ann. ‘It’s about letting women have an equal shot, and we’re far off from getting there.’

But Ann hopes we might someday reach true equality if we ‘get rid of the childcare problem and share that’.

‘Women are doing really well,’ says Ann. ‘They’re just as ambitious, they’re just as confident, they’re just as able in all respects.’

‘We see in sports, women are becoming more and more entrenched and doing a lot more stuff, it’s fabulous.’

‘Sure, why wouldn’t it happen?’