EVENT REVIEW: Harriet Harman: A Woman’s Work

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14th October

Durham Town Hall

Review by Megan Goundry

Being a politician, one would expect Harman to be able to tell a story – whether it is of a fictional nature or one of truth. This expectation was fulfilled in an event that was entertaining and insightful, providing a narrative that almost every woman in the room could relate to.

Whether you like her politics or not, one has to acknowledge Harman’s accomplishments. She fought to bring women’s lives into politics, acting as the political wing of the feminist movement. She brought in women only shortlists, championed longer maternity leave and brought the importance of childcare in getting a mother back to work into the spotlight, persuading Gordon Brown.

During the event, she talked about some of her successes to a rapt audience, but also about wider influences and reactions to the feminist movement in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Discussing the complexity of the movement, she simplified it by splitting it into three broad categories: ‘Consciousness raising’ which she described as raising awareness of sexuality; ‘Domestic Violence’ which entailed highlighting domestic violence as an issue and ‘Women’s Legal Rights’ which included campaigning for things such as maternity leave and equal pay.

She moved on to cover a range of topics including sexual harassment, the perceived role of women, women in politics and what inspired her to write her memoir. She used personal examples and topical issues to illustrate her points. By referencing Harvey Weinstein, Harman astutely pointed out the issue with many cases such as his, saying; ‘I don’t think it should be seen as one bad individual… it’s endemic.’

The event was full of insights such as that, and there was a buzz of chatter when the event ended and the audience began filing out. Evidently the event was a success; she made people think, discuss, and question. What more could an event hope to achieve?

Cuckoo Review is an arts journalism programme for young writers aged 15-23. Through the Cuckoo Reviewers in Residence programme at Durham Book Festival, young people have reviewed festival events and books, and have interviewed featured authors. For more information about Cuckoo Review visit