Feminism Ungagged Writing Victoria Pearson

Weaponising Fragility

Victoria Pearson

Weaponising Fragility

How Ruth Davidson betrayed women, yet again

On May 25th, in the late evening, Ruth Davidson tweeted that at lunchtime she had been followed through the streets by a man shouting Indy slogans while filming her as his dogs barked.

As someone who has experienced my fair share of street harassment (I speak about it on this podcast, skip to 1hr 10mins in if you want to listen), my heart went out to Ruth. I’ve got four children myself and I well understand how vulnerable pregnancy makes you feel. Ruth’s account of events reads as an incredibly scary experience – being chased by someone yelling slogans at you while dogs bark at you must be terrifying . My mental image of a pregnant woman running away from someone shouting at her while dogs terrified her further was powerful, as I’m sure a skilled orator like Davidson was well aware.

And then the footage of the incident emerged. I’ll link it here so you can come to your own conclusions,


But what I see in that video is very far from the events described by Ruth in her tweet. I see a constituent break into a slight jog in order to catch up with their elected representative and ask them a valid question in a respectful tone. At no point was the questioner rude, abusive or even loud. At no point did they cross into Ruth’s personal space – they were never in arms reach of each other.

Granted, some people are afraid of dogs, but the dogs in question were small, and well under control -at no point do they approach Ms Davidson – and cannot be heard barking on the video at all. Also, Ruth Davidson doesn’t appear to have a debilitating dog phobia:

And she doesn’t appear to feel at all threatened by the questioner. She turns her back on him, and walks away at a relaxed pace, surrounded by her colleagues. He wasnt intruding on her leisure time, or following her into a medical appointment, or bothering her on a bus – she is very obviously out at work, doing her job as an MSP.

On parliament.uk, it states that an MP (so presumably also an MSP who is leader of the Scottish branch of her party) “generally try to meet as many people as possible” so that they can gain “further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Westminster”

It seems only fair then, to assume that answering politely worded queries from probable constituents is a key component of an elected representatives job.

Some may say that demanding time and attention from women on the street is harassment. In the vast majority of cases I would wholeheartedly agree. Indeed I make that same argument on my podcast about street harassment. But Ruth Davidson was not a lone woman on the street being harassed and intimidated for attention. She was a woman at work, and being asked questions is her job.

So surprise surprise, Ruth’s telling porky pies. Why am I moved to write about it? It’s not exactly new behaviour.

Well, quite apart from the fact that if that man hadn’t been filming the encounter, he could’ve got into serious trouble – either through legal means or the knock on social effects of having people erroneously believe you are an abusive man who chases terrified pregnant women through the streets with your furiously barking dogs; a woman with power was prepared to sacrifice the quality of life of a stranger in order to present a narrative, and that’s both cruel and breathtakingly manipulative.

The actions of women like Ruth Davidson who exaggerate and fabricate encounters like this are harmful to women and girls everywhere, and perpetuate rape culture by giving weight to the idea that women aren’t to be believed when we talk about very real instances of street harassment and abuse that we face every single day.

Every single time we talk about harassment and abuse, women are shouted down by people who talk about false allegations that ruin lives. For a woman in the public eye to make a false allegation of harassment is unforgivable. To make one that is so easily disproven shows, at best, political naivety that makes her unfit for her post, at worst a malicious streak wide enough to throw a probable constituent under the bus while simultaneously trashing every woman who has been brave enough to talk about their experiences of #everydaysexism , street harassment and abuse. Frankly put, how dare she trivialize our experiences in this way?

In the UK we have a woefully low conviction rate for rape and sexual assault, we have a culture of blame surrounding the victims of street harassment, any displays of solidarity or supportive dialogues women try to set up online are swamped by MRAs and “egalitarians” sliding in to derail conversations with cries of “well, actually…” And “but what about..?”, gaslighting survivors of abuse and suggesting the majority of accusations of abuse and harrassment are false, and Ruth Davidson has just handed them yet another weapon to attack us with. So much for sisterhood.

As a survivor of abuse, an endurer of street harassment, the mother of a daughter, a feminist -I will always instinctively #BelieveHer. Which is why I’ve nothing but contempt for those in the public eye that muddy the waters by weaponising an image of vulnerability in the way Ruth Davidson did in that encounter and the subsequent, clearly well thought out tweet that followed some hours later.

Shame on any woman that would throw us all under the bus by polluting dialogue about our very real experiences of street abuse with spurious accusations like this. I can only conclude with what those before me have said – Ruth Davidson, You Ain’t No Feminist, Sis.




Victoria is a regular contributor to the Ungagged Podcast, and you can read more of her Ungagged writing here

36 thoughts on “Weaponising Fragility

  1. Great piece,but in all honesty I never jogged. I walked quicker but no I did not run in any way.
    Dean HALLIDAY.

    1. Well said, Victoria Pearson. Ms Davidson gets away, usually, with such untruthfulness because of the unquestioning support she receives from the British nationalist media in Scotland. This time she was found out.

  2. I watched the footage, and drew my own conclusion….it is plain wrong to pursue anyone in a public…filming them, and demanding they answer your questions. It is aggressive, confrontational and intimidating
    period. The individual concerned should have word with himself before putting the indy campaign into such disrepute. I also suspect repeated performances may one day require surgical removal of his phone, a fitting price to pay for such luminous sh*tebaggery…..take it from me you are no hero!

    As for the author of this piece, your efforts to turn this into ‘worse things happen so there!’ Is risable, it does you no favours to decend into whataboutery and feeble reductivist notions of equivalence. The real reason for your contortions is a response to the fact that Ruth Davidson is rag- dolling Sturgeon weekly, and as a working class woman and a lesbian, she has wrong footed the self annointed ‘radicals’ of the nationalist cause. Further there is a self depricating humour about Davidson that is gaining traction across the nation, in stark contrast to a humourless machine politician who has long since squandered the copious levels of goodwill she recieved in 2015. Bottom line is the indy movement has flat lined way below the required levels of support, so the more unhinged elements are resorting to shouting ever louder……anyway, should you ‘radicals’ not be discussing the Neo Liberal prospectus (the 2nd one) to emerge from the SNP, rather than justifying the harassment of pregnant women in public space?

    1. I didn’t hear any demands, personally. I saw a woman being approached at work, respectfully, as is part of her job. When I was last pregnant I worked in a school, and parents would regularly approach me on the street to ask about their children’s progress. I saw nothing wrong with that, because answering questions was part of my job.

      I fear you have misunderstood my point-perhaps deliberately, who knows? – it wasn’t at all “worse things happen.” It was that false allegations of street harrasment, such as this, are extremely harmful to actual victims of harassment, who are not taken seriously because of spurious or exaggerated claims such as this one. It is harmful to all victims everywhere.

      You’re barking up the wrong tree with your assertion that my motivations are to do with protecting Sturgeon. If you click the link on my by line you’ll find my bio, where it quickly becomes obvious that not only am I not an SNP supporter, I’m not actually based in Scotland, so couldn’t vote for them even if I wanted to.

      I don’t even know where to start with Davidson’s “self deprecating humour” – I can only assume you’ve misunderstood the meaning of those words. Regardless, her sense of humour or lack thereof is entirely incidental to the issue at hand -She made a damaging, borderline libellous claim which she knew to be false, which discredits actual victims of a very real problem with male violence and harassment.

      If your obscure reference in the final sentence is to do with the growth commission report (difficult to tell for me, not being a Scot), I haven’t covered it personally, but Ungagged has. You can find Nick Durie’s view on it here: http://leftungagged.org/2018/05/26/too-poor-for-prosperity/

    2. Your dislike of the SNP and your admiration of Ms Davidson of the No Second Referendum Party appears to have made you overlook the rather important point that Ruth the Mooth blatantly misrepresented an incident, as evidenced by the video footage. Of course RtM has form for fibbing…

    3. Mate after reading that tripe of yours. I can understand your Aikenhead, cos now my head’s aiken anaw

  3. Ruth’s a public figure, Mr. Aikenhead, a Member of Scottish Parliament and therefore anything but a private citizen. The only way in which Keatings’ actions in that clip could be interpreted as abusive is if said interpreter held position that public officials were beyond answering to their constituents. This is not Ivanka Trump being accosted and attacked on a lower rate public airline in front of her children by an entitled twat. And didn’t you die in 1697, Mr. Aikenhead?

  4. I most certainly was a mile out regarding your view point, and humbly apologise. The best I can say us this is hiw febrile political discourse is becoming, I found this blog on twitter following dozens of comments justifying a nasty and unnecessary confrontation. In recent years Scotland has witnessed elected politicians out campaigning being followed and filmed by thugs shouting through megaphones, where disagreement with ‘independence’ results in accusations of everything from traitorous betrayal to paedophilia. I stand by my assertion that filming anyone in such a manner is absolutely an act of intimidation, and should condemned, regardless of where it fits with wider debates of rape culture and sexual harassment.

    RE Ruth Davidson, am no Tory, but she has a perfect right to walk the streets without being harassed in this manner. As I implied, she has the nationalists terrified as she lands ever heavier blows to a leader whose star is very much waning.

    Once again apologies for misreading your angle.

    1. While I’d often agree with you that filming someone can be intimidating, I think given Ms Davidson’s history of making false accusations, I’d only be comfortable interacting with her on camera myself too. If this man hadn’t filmed his encounter, people would think he ran after a terrified woman while setting his barking dogs on her. I am very certain Ruth conjured that image very carefully – she has a background in journalism, so she knows the power of carefully chosen words.

      I’ve not seen any accusations of the type you describe but if I did, I’d call that out just as forcefully. That certainly would be harassment and /or intimidation, a far cry from asking an elected rep a reasonable question.

      Apology appreciated 🙂

      1. Mr Halliday was asking her about her position on indyref2……RD has made her position on the subject clear on numerous occassions, indeed the nationalists accuse her of talking about little else. If this was a constituent who has been seriously seeking to contact an elected official regarding a particular issue, and been ignored, it may be different, but this is a blowhard looking for confrontation nothing more. I absolutely condemn thuggery on any side, including the loyalists elements who indulge in nazi salutes, I have yet to hear nationalists condemn the brownshirts who followed Margaret Curran door to door in Glasgow, or Jim Murphy, or Eddie Izzard….unnacceptable in a democracy.

        I see Mr Haliday gas tweeted this morning his intention to visit a lawyer regarding this inccident…..as he feels he has been ‘threatened’….tells you all you need to know about this character.

    2. You are living in a fantasy world. Ruth Davidson is a proven liar who ignores her own day job and spends all her time on self promotion so that silly people like You think she is some sort of star. What has she ever done for Scotland? What proposals has she ever put forward. What a waste of space. She is another one who is just bigging herself up so that she can bogoff to London where her masters can give her a pat on the back and some dog biscuits as a reward for talking down Scotland.

  5. Thank you Victoria for putting sensible dialog and dissection before outlandish moral superiority and a craven deliberate attempt to lie and distort out of all proportion a constituents right to ask a question of his highly paid MSP
    Perhaps if ms. Davidson held constituency surgeries the gentleman in question may have had the ability to ask that same question face to face , however it appears ms. Davidson is more interested in appearing in television celebrity shows or posing for photo opportunities astride tanks and suchlike rather than doing her day job , which would have severe limitations on a constituents ability to interact with her .
    As for Mr Aitkenheads comment re febrile discourse and nasty confrontation by thugs shouting through megaphones I would advise Mr Aitkenhead to look at the videos of the AUOB March on 5th May 2018 and the disgusting reprehensible behaviour in George Square after the 2014 referendum , to confirm that the British nationalist supporters there were indeed thugs intent on nasty confrontation and violence

    1. Indeed. Going down Union Street on the big Glasgow march it was the two dozen British Nationalists wearing Rangers scarfs who were calling us paedophiles. A right set of charmers.

    2. I did see the coverage AUOB, there were banners from the white nationalists of Siol nan Gaidheal among the saltires. Who’d have thunk it fascists at a nationalist demonstration!

      The counter demonstration was despicable, I agree, but so are the Siol nan Gaidheal.

      1. For those interested,Ungagged will be putting out a piece about the presence of Siol nan Gaidheal at that demo later on today.

        (Spoiler: we disapprove, quite forcefully)

        It will be tweeted and facebooked by us but I will try and remember to link to it here too.


      2. Counter demonstration – you call a dozen people a counter demonstration – you really are living in a fantasy land. Your counter demonstration was just a small bunch of thugs.

      3. Mr Aikenhead you sound just like a British Nationalist. Orange order your cup of tea? Missing the BNP. Or is it the Masons.


        The only Nazi salutes at the Glasgow march came from the British Nationalist thugs – your counter demonstration – in Union st.

        1. I am none of the things you suggest. SoG are white nationalists, they were kicked out of the SNP, just stating facts.

  6. I’m modding comments that cheapen the murder of Jo Cox by bringing her into this discussion. To conflate a woman being brutally stabbed by a far right murderer when she was trying to hold surgeries with a politician being asked a question in the street is exactly the sort of misogyny my article talks about. Make your points without exploiting a her memory like that please.

  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntJD97qb5GY

    This is Mr Halliday approaching RD on another occasion. The stated defence that this is a frustrated constituent seeking to question an elected official is now looking somewhat shaky. In this interaction there is no question, just a creepy (heading towards menacing) infantile justification for his actions.

    1. Not sure what relevance that has to he discussion here but feel I shouldn’t let that one go without pointing out that particular account is pretty likely to be a bot (the clue is in the handle – almost all twitter handles that end in 8 numbers are bots). Not saying anyone who makes negative statements about tories is, obviously, but that particular one is flagged as “highly likely” to be a bot by two different bot-check sites 🙂

    1. I stand corrected then! (Tho I’d still be suspicious of any anon account with lots of numbers in their name, but I’m an unusu all entity on Twitter, tweeting under my own name with my face as my picture).

      Again I think we’ve strayed quite far from the original discussion (the damage false accusations from high profile women does to victims of abuse), but I’d be the first to say that the kind of behaviour that tweeter is displaying is misogyny, it’s threatening behaviour and is unacceptable in political discourse.
      Even though I strongly believe the target (RD) is actively harming many thousands of women and children with the policies she supports, I don’t think that kind of behaviour is productive, necessary or pleasant, regardless of party affiliation.

      1. I also keep forgetting to initial these posts, which I’m meant to because this site is accessed by other Ungaggers too. For clarity, all posts by this account on this particular article have been from V 🙂

      2. I would agree with most of that V, but this is a multi-dimensional discussion. My ire is raised when I witness this kind of pitchfork politics becoming more and more acceptable in the past few years. As a card carrying member of the Labour Party for 3 of the last 4 decades, in many ways I lament RD’s prolific rise and perhaps you are correct that her politics cannot be neatly separated from wider issues, but nevertheless Mr Halliday knew exactly what he was doing…….playing to the screeching nationalist anger chimps of social media, claiming to have been somehow misrepresented…..not as far as I can see, and RD knew exactly what she was looking at………… aggressive, intrusive and intimidating behaviour.

        1. I feel like that could’ve been said without the “the screeching nationalist anger chimps of social media” but I won’t mod you again 😉

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