BEGINNING this piece, I ponder with hope that we can entice men into a vital conversation a bit more, and ask them, for the sake of Scottish women to take heed, please.

In front of me is the recently published Misogyny in Scotland Report by the Scottish Women’s Convention (SWC). Its diligent efforts – marked by months of research, countless roundtables, a conference, and an extensive survey – culminated in this comprehensive account of women’s experiences of misogyny in Scotland.

My heartfelt gratitude goes to the SWC and all the women who courageously shared their stories, giving us the tools to unmask the unsettling truth about misogyny in our society. Those women have given us an invaluable insight into the systemic issues that continue to undermine our societal fabric. Each account underscores the enduring struggle against misogyny that women navigate daily, from girls grappling with sexual harassment in schools to adult women battling gender bias in workplaces.

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Reflecting on the report’s findings, it becomes distressingly clear how pervasively these negative experiences colour women’s lives.

For instance, a significant percentage of female students consistently outperform their male counterparts at school, yet these achievements come at a high cost. The relentless misogyny that is woven into their everyday school life, manifesting as sexual harassment and sexist bullying, threatens their emotional and physical wellbeing.

In our workplaces, women are met with inequality and bias. Women earn significantly less than their male counterparts and are often relegated to part-time roles. Amid this systemic bias, the presence of a persistent “boys’ club” mentality further marginalises women, creating an environment where their professional competence is questioned and their need for reasonable adjustments trivialised.

I know the biting sting of unfairness that arises from a promotion met with hostility instead of applause. My experiences have given me a grim understanding of how much harder the path becomes when one’s competency is doubted merely based on gender. Or when decisions which don’t include the “old boys’ club” are met with a bitterness that sours relationships and incites bullying.

The National: SNP MSP Karen Adam will take part in the event

As a female member of the Scottish Parliament, I find this document simultaneously sobering and galvanising. For the patterns unveiled in these pages echo my own encounters with misogyny in political life, as well as in countless stories of fellow women parliamentarians. Being questioned on our knowledge and abilities, overlooked in decision-making processes, infantilised, scrutinised more harshly than male counterparts – these incidents are not anomalies but systemic imprints of a culture that still struggles to see women as equals.

The digital realm, an increasingly integral part of our lives, has unfortunately also become a breeding ground for misogyny. More than 60% of the women surveyed identified online misogyny as a major issue, with instances of abuse ranging from violent threats to sexually explicit comments.

The fear and distress generated by this toxic climate are driving many women to self-exclude from online spaces, thereby further deepening the gender divide in these platforms. I deactivated my Twitter months ago for this reason.

The shocking reports which highlighted institutional racism and misogyny within our law enforcement – the Metropolitan Police and Police Scotland – were a stark reminder that our systems, too, are fallible. It signified the urgent need for systemic changes, for laws that explicitly confront misogyny, and for a justice system that can protect women instead of perpetuating the very crimes it seeks to curtail.

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But my intention is not to paint a picture of despair, I write this piece today to shine a light on the resilience and resolve of Scottish women who navigate these hardships every day. The women who spoke to the SWC, who shared their stories despite the pain they hold, exemplify the strength of our collective womanhood. This strength brings me hope and fuels my commitment to advocating for a more equitable Scotland.

I welcome the proposed misogyny law as a crucial step forward. However, as voiced by many women in the SWC report, legislation is but one piece of the solution. What we require is a paradigm shift – a cultural transformation that transcends laws and permeates our educational institutions, workplaces, online platforms and every corner of our society where misogyny takes root.

Men are a huge part of the solution, as this is not a fight of women against men, but a united front against a culture that hurts us all. Let us create a Scotland where women’s rights, voices, and experiences are not merely added to the discourse but form its very foundation.

It is a collective effort that requires every citizen, especially men, to actively engage in addressing misogyny. Men need to become allies and use their influence to counteract the impacts of this embedded inequality. It requires us all to listen, learn, and act. But men must be challenging their own behaviours and biases and using their influence to challenge misogyny in all its forms.

Some specific actions we could take to help address misogyny include standing up against sexist behaviour, promoting and supporting women in their workplaces and teaching younger generations about gender equality. Scotland is known for its strong sense of community, and we within our localities can also play a role in challenging misogyny, such as local businesses supporting women-led initiatives and for example, schools implementing comprehensive sex education that includes teachings on consent.

I witnessed a male colleague call out harmful misogynistic language and it was done in an educational and respectful way. It was a brief exchange and took seconds. Moments such as these repeated across the population of millions in Scotland can and will trigger movement towards a more attuned and fairer society for women because believe me, and this report, it isn’t that right now.