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You Lift Me Up…

Imagine a scene.  A woman walks into a bar and orders a drink.  A father and son are sat at a table and upon seeing the woman remark ‘ I wonder what she’s wearing underneath her skirt..?’  They quietly discuss who is going to find out.  As the woman is receiving her drink, she feels her skirt being lifted and hears words of disappointment from the men as they realise they have been discovered.  What’s going through your mind at this moment..?  I would hope shock, horror and disgust.  In my experience this would be seen as highly offensive, possible assault and deserving of immediate action.

Now, let’s reverse the situation…

A man walks into a bar wearing a kilt.  A mother and daughter discuss the age old issue of whether a kilted man wears underwear.  They decide to find out and lift the kilts hem.  They howl their disappointment when discovered.  What are your thoughts now..?  I would hope the same shock, horror and disgust.

The definition of Sexual or Indecent Assault is an act of ‘physical, psychological and emotion violation inflicted on someone without their consent’.

The kilt incident happened recently to my long suffering climbing partner Ian.  In an attempt to maintain some dignity, he left the bar and tried to forget the event, rather than make a scene.  The following day, Ian reported the incident to the Police as he felt offended by the act.  The initial response was confusing as they seemed unsure what actions to take.  The impression was that the Police did not take the accusation seriously as it was described as ‘Banter’.  They did contact Ian again to gain further information, but still seemed unable to address the issue.

The definition of Equality is “The state of being equal, especially in status, rights or opportunities”

‘Up skirting’ is now a crime in England, Scotland and Wales.  I hope this means equality for everyone who wears a skirt, kilt, dress or any item of clothing.

You may ask why I’m writing about this..?

Since 2011 and Jimmy Saville, then 2017 and Harvey Weinstein, sexual abuse has loomed large in the news agenda.  It is quite right that all abuse is fairly investigated, treated equally and justice served.  The Equality and Human Rights Commission measures many characteristics. #metoo has been used across the world to highlight sexual abuse, but I wonder if we’re taking it too far..?  I also wonder if were looking at the wrong titles..?  I feel that we are sorting people into groups that society expect, yet there are much better ways of looking at people.  More on this later…

I work a great deal in both engineering and the outdoors.  Historically both have been dominated by men, but a huge change is underway.  I have been fortunate to work in industry where equal pay has always existed, as has equal opportunity and career progression.  More and more women are entering engineering and industry gains from their skills.  The outdoors is also changing and I have climbed on many occasions with both sexes, but also many different abilities, age groups, religions and races.  I have climbed during Ramadan, taken part in numerous Puja ceremonies and climbed internationally with friends from across the globe.  This is an ever changing world which looks to the future brightly as everyone shares in the rewards.

However, I feel there is a darker side.  Every  time I visit hospital I’m asked to state my religion, gender and age.  I have to ask why..?  What difference does it make whether I’m White, Black, Male, Female, Anglican, Sikh, over 50 etc. except to fill in some spreadsheet, to tick a box, or to create statistics.  These ticks mean little when it comes to curing disease or treating long term illness.  I fear these statistics are segregating people rather than treating them, but segregation is a huge issue in more than just medicine.

Should we segregate people in clubs, societies and communities..?

Should we target time, resources and funding to groups by gender, race, age, background or religion..?  Should it make a difference who we are, where we are from or what we wish to achieve..?  We must remember that equality, like democracy comes with a price.  The ongoing Brexit debacle has proved this.  You might have a different opinion or point of view to others, but that doesn’t mean that by shouting or beating desks, you get your way.

At last year’s Kendal Mountain Festival I spoke with the British Mountaineering Council about equality.  I’m not a fan of segregated events and we had quite a debate about the issue.  I have to say that we agreed to disagree, and I have offered to meet them again and discuss the matter further.  As of yet, my request has received no reply.  I grew up in an education system which took everyone into the outdoors – equally.  There was no distinction due to sex, race, skill or ability to pay.  We just had a go and had a damn good time.

I’ve been brought up with a great respect for all people.  I open doors for everyone and often receive thanks.  I have however been rebuked by a few ladies inferring that I see women as weak and feeble.  Quite the opposite (come and meet my meet my mother and sister..!)  Good manners cost nothing and should not be seen as insulting or offensive.  I feel that many people need to get off their soapboxes, stop complaining and get on with the world.  Activism might have its place, but consistently beating on about a subject, any subject, will lose my attention very quickly.

I say bring on equality, just make sure that some people are not more equal than others…

Back to the subject of sorts, both good and bad.  Seth Godin describes it very well…

“We sort people all the time. Society prefers easy, useless ones. Sorts like: Skin colour. Gender. Disability status. Nationality. Religious background. Height.

While these are easy to do and the result of long, long traditions, they’re useless.

The alternatives? Kindness. Expertise. Attitude. Skill. Emotional intelligence. Honesty. Generous persistence. Willingness to take risks. Loyalty. Perceptivity. Attention span. Care. Self-awareness…

It’s a daily battle, an uphill climb to intentionally ignore the bad sorts we were likely taught as kids. This might be the most important work we do today, and every day. The people we care about deserve it..”

Perhaps society needs to change the way it sorts…

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