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Opinion

Misogyny – not so niche now

15 May 2023 4 minute read
Carrie Harper

Carrie Harper

This last week has been the most difficult I’ve experienced as a member and elected representative for Plaid Cymru. The Prosiect Pawb report commissioned by the party to look into reports of a toxic culture delivered its damning conclusion. Plaid Cymru has a culture of harassment, bullying and misogyny that needs rooting out.

It’s not just Plaid Cymru wrestling with these problems of course. We’ve seen it in the WRU, the Met Police and in other political parties too. Too often society generally turns a blind eye, too often ‘banter’ is the excuse and too often those in power brush bad behaviour under the carpet.

We had all hoped that the ‘me too’ movement would spark a fundamental change but it sadly wasn’t the silver bullet for such an endemic problem. In a climate of political polarisation, culture wars and anti-wokeness, it’s all too easy to dismiss genuine problems as ‘niche issues’. Within Plaid similar concerns have also been raised previously but we have to accept that not enough has been done to turn the page.

It’s been an eyeopener to say the least. With no hint of irony I’ve even seen some point the finger at former party leader Leanne Wood for the party’s current woes. I recall she was accused of focussing overly on niche issues when she challenged misogyny. Misogyny doesn’t seem so niche now does it? It’s an indication of how much work there is to do.

Respectful

My own County Council group in Wrecsam is made up of a majority of women councillors, sadly we are the exception not the rule. We’ve worked hard locally to encourage more women to stand for the party and many stepped up to the plate during the last council election.

They’ve also been supported by men in the party who have been instrumental in ensuring a supportive, positive and respectful environment. It’s difficult to now bring this report to them and we’ve had to have an honest and open conversation locally about what needs to change. We’re agreed it starts with accountability.

At the heart of the problem is sexual harassment and misogyny but it’s also important to note the report points to bullying too. Abuse of power is also an issue and one political parties have to be particularly mindful of. Nerys Evans is clear in stating in her report that the perpetrators are men and although the majority of victims are women, men have been victims too.

Moving forward we have to separate these issues out in order to understand them fully. We also can’t just point the finger at the top of the party, these issues reflect our society more generally and will therefore manifest at all levels.

A green shoot in this saga is the fact that Plaid Cymru commissioned this report itself and shared the conclusions publicly. It’s undoubtedly tough to hear damning home truths set out so starkly and to put them up for public scrutiny but it’s also the starting point for raising the bar.

Determined

As a member of the party’s National Executive I know how determined people are to effect genuine change. There is absolute unity around the priority to implement all 82 of the recommendations set out in Nerys’ Evans report as a matter of urgency.

Fundamentally, Plaid Cymru is a party of decent, dedicated people who are committed to building a better Wales. We know that to do that, we have to embody what that Wales looks like.

Clearly not everyone has lived up to the standard. We now owe it to our members, to our staff and to all those within the Independence movement to embed a new culture of respect from the grassroots through to the very top.

The party is currently in the very capable hands of Llyr Gruffydd MS as interim leader and we have started the process to elect the next leader of our party. That person undoubtedly has a huge task ahead but they will have the backing of us all to get the job done. That job is about making Plaid Cymru structures a best practice example in Wales but it’s also about setting out the vision for the Wales we want to build and the road map to getting there.

That vision has to include a zero tolerance approach to bad behaviour.


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Gill
Gill
9 months ago

Why so much misogyny Carrie when the party is fulĺ of powerful women? Can we not call it toxic rather than mysoginy . After all men and women have been hounded out Of PC.

hdavies15
hdavies15
9 months ago
Reply to  Gill

It’s a toxic mix that includes misogyny. The missing word is “misandry” like it can’t happen. Some of the “powerful women” losing their focus and lashing out ? Not possible ? Since when has “scheming” been a male only activity?

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
9 months ago

Carrie is right – its been frankly laughable to observe some people (ie. men) attempting to blame our former female leader Leanne Wood for serious problems like misogyny in the party. A woman blamed for misogyny – you couldnt make it up! But appalled as i was by the investigations findings i was nevertheless very pleased to see the recommendations contained in Nerys Evans’ report accepted in their entirety by the party. I fear however its going to take us a long time to recover from this shameful episode. But if we are serious about dealing with the very serious… Read more »

Sorgina
Sorgina
9 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

I just hope remedial action is also taken at branch level, since the problem extends outside Ty Gwynfor as well.

CJPh
CJPh
9 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

“A woman blamed for misogyny – you couldnt make it up”. It seems that you’ve found a way, Leigh. What an incredibly flimsy straw man statement. I’ve read plenty of commentary about Leanne Woods tenure, some totally justified, criticism, some hyperbolic and plenty of ad hominems too, but who has ever said that she is a misogynist? If that’s how you see things, no wonder you’re willing to accept the findings of a report based on… What exactly? Say so?

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
9 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

“No wonder you’re willing to accept the findings of a report based on….What exactly?” Only someone with zero knowledge of the report’s shocking contents could post a comment as tone deaf as that – either that or its appalling revelations of sexual harassment, bullying and misogyny dont matter to you. Plaid Cymru im pleased to say takes such matters extremely seriously and has not only accepted the report in its entirety but will also impliment its 82 recommendations to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in the party. PS. It’s very revealing that those commenting here disputing the findings… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
9 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Or, and hear me out, the findings and the general thrust of the report (which is all that has been publicly released) doesn’t matter vs the data, the methodology and other levels of due diligence and scrutiny that would normally be employed in such an endeavor. Look, there may very well be serious concerns here, there may be many actual, verifiable instances of terrible (and perhaps even unlawful) actions taken by the membership and staff, but there’s nothing save the suggestions and a general overview drawn from a survey-based report for the public to go on. Can you imagine a… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
9 months ago

“A green shoot in this saga is the fact that Plaid Cymru commissioned this report itself and shared the conclusions publicly” – it’s like releasing the title of a novel without any content. This piecemeal ‘transparency’ is more suspicious than out-and-out opacity, clearly designed to obfuscate something real and manufacture outcome. There has also been commentary, as well as allusions from the report’s conclusion, that there are credible accusations of sexual crimes. How is that not the SOLE focus, with outmoded language and nastiness a distant 2nd and 3rd concern? It’s like someone saying “Quick, there’s a house on fire… Read more »

Ivor Schilling
Ivor Schilling
9 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

“How is that not the SOLE focus, with outmoded language and nastiness a distant 2nd and 3rd concern?” We all know the answer – its because this is vengefulness dressed up as moral principles. It is weaponised ethical language, blatant willpower masquerading as ethical outrage / anti-sexism. Any serious concerns over sexual crimes should have been taken directly to the police, as was surely the case with Simon Thomas AM (Surely!?) The report in question should have been an internal document, aimed at improving Plaid’s working environment, among its staff and politicians, whose numbers are limited as we know. Instead,… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
9 months ago
Reply to  Ivor Schilling

It could very well be the case, Ivor. Then again, it may not. Who can tell? From what I understand (which is very limited – which may be the point), the only approach used in the report was survey. if this is the case, all the supposed bad behaviour here is based on unquestioned accepting of self-reportage. I hope (and would dearly like to know) that a more rigorous methodology was employed. Based on the ‘reporting’, both subsequent and, worryingly, prior to Price’s exit, there’s been remarkably little questioning, a certain amount of vitriol, and an odd sense of ‘we… Read more »

Joni Boyd
Joni Boyd
9 months ago

Misogyny was not the only thing the report’s content referred to; bullying, harassment, basic failures of whistle-blowing procedures were all identified. As were failings within *gasp* the NEC.

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