Helena Kennedy has spent decades fighting for women’s rights— and she’s not giving upby Sarah Langford / November 12, 2018 / Leave a comment
A recent Twitter thread asked followers to name the books they considered compulsory reading for law students. Over and over again a book first published over 20 years ago kept appearing: Helena Kennedy’s Eve was Framed.
Now a Queen’s Counsel and Labour peer, Kennedy has a reputation as a legal firebrand. With her interest in human rights, she has appeared in a string of high-profile cases including the Brighton Bombing trial and Guildford Four appeal, the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in 1994 and the abduction of baby Abbie Humphries. She is a member of Doughty Street—the chambers which she co-founded in 1990—and over the last few decades she has chaired dozens of prominent committees. She has her own foundation, providing bursaries to disadvantaged students, an echo to Kennedy’s own upbringing in a working-class area of Glasgow. But it was back in 1992 that Kennedy’s book consolidated her status as a feminist icon. It shot a laser beam through the legal system and society, exposing patterns of ingrained misogyny. Someone on the Twitter thread put it simply. Kennedy’s book, she wrote, “made me feel part of a sisterhood.”
Now, a quarter of a century on, Kennedy has revised, updated and re-titled her book. Her timing could not be better. In the last year, powerful people in the worlds of entertainment, business and politics have been shaken by the force of the #MeToo and #TimesUp revelations of sexual abuse and harassment. Eve was Shamed is part of this movement. It is a call to arms, but it is also a whistle-stop tour of the wide-ranging societal and legal changes which have taken place over the last 40 years.
The breadth of her book is enormous. We move from infanticide, incarceration of women, domestic violence and rape, on to refugees, sexual harassment, human trafficking, face veils, up-skirting, transgender imprisonment, female genital mutilation, terrorism and modern-day slavery, and much more besides. The text is peppered with contemporary references, including a brief examination of the coercive control storyline in Radio 4’s The Archers, when a character faced trial for stabbing her husband after enduring years of bullying. There are mentions of Susie Orbach’s work on the body image of young girls, Charles Saatchi’s throat grab of his then wife Nigella Lawson, the (quashed) release…