Allegations of serious sexual harassment and abuse by MPs have shone a light on the sexism which lies at the heart of our society.
They come soon after the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and others in Hollywood.
In both parliament and the film industry there’s a culture where “everybody knows” what goes on, but it remorselessly continues.
Powerful individuals can ruin someone’s career with a sacking or by spreading rumours about them.
The price of speaking out is often very high.
Sexual harassment and abuse are not confined to the Tories.
Trades Union Congress research suggests that more than half of women have experienced sexual harassment at work.
And in a deeply sexist society, sexual harassment is something most women experience at some point in their lives.
Now even the Tory leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom has admitted, “Make no mistake, there is a need for change.”
Every instance of sexist behaviour should be challenged, and people who make complaints need to be taken seriously and treated with respect.
Trade unions should demand that every workplace becomes a zero tolerance zone—and force employers to take the issue seriously.
The change we need won’t come from the Tories.
It was former Tory prime minister David Cameron who told Labour MP Angela Eagle to “calm down dear” during a Commons debate.
Right wing attitudes, shared unfortunately by some in Labour and the trade unions, are rooted in the defence of a society where women are not equal.
On Tuesday new figures showed that Britain registered the biggest increase in the gender pay gap in Europe in 2015.
Capitalism produces this inequality and the ideological justifications for it.
When men act in a sexist way they have to be challenged. But the root cause of sexism is not individual men and reactionary ideas they may have about women.
In fact many men reject sexist ideas and would certainly not behave in the way that seems to be acceptable in the House of Commons.
The root of oppression is the way society is organised.
The fight is therefore not just for workplaces free of sexual harassment—crucial though that is—but also for women’s liberation.
Capitalism needs to reproduce the workforce, and the most effective way it has found to do that is through the family. This is at the heart of women’s oppression.
From this flows attitudes and practices that keep women down.
Both working class women and men have an interest in smashing the system that maintains women’s oppression and divides working class people.