Monday, 14 July 2014

The Thorny Issue of Women in Politics.

There has been a lot in the media recently about David Cameron mooting the possibility of all women shortlists as a tool to get more women in the House of Commons.  I'm a bit torn by this to be honest because while I agree that something really needs to change, it is rubbish that this is the best way of going about it.

The fact that the current cabinet has three women to nineteen men is pretty crappy.  I very much doubt that women just don't want to get into politics, yet we wind up with very few women at the top.  All women shortlists would do nothing to address why this is, they merely try to fix the situation in a similar way to wall papering over the cracks in the sitting room wall.  Eventually the paper falls off and the cracks have gotten worse and worse.

In fact I think the cracks run deeply through society, the media and the whole of government.  There are some in the electorate will often not vote for women on the basis of her gender, or if they will vote for a woman then she has to prove herself way more than a man every would.  There are large sections of the media who focus on women in politics in a way they never would about men (their appearance, their age, their family life, the list goes on and on).  This often serves to make women look distracted, frivolous, naive, stupid or all of the above.  Then there is parliament itself which by all accounts is a hellish place to be if you don't have a dick in your pants.  Yvette Cooper had the details of her mastitis leaked to the press amongst many other misogynist incidences.  I can't imagine it very likely that a male politician would have the details of his prostatitis leaked in the same way.  It also appears that the upper echelons of the Conservative party particularly resembles the Bullingdon Club all grown up.  It must be tricky for David Cameron to encourage more women to the top when non of them went to Eton.

Indeed it is strange that suddenly David "calm down dear" Cameron is dangling this carrot out there.  Not wishing to be cynical but he obviously realises the torys aren't doing that well on the popularity front and so in an effort to appeal to the 52% of voters who are women he decides to make it look like his party is all for women.  In reality of course, they aren't.  If he was really bothered about this he could have done something about it ages ago but he hasn't.  What he has done however is ramp up his austerity campaign that disproportionately affects women, insult women in parliament and generally display himself as a bit of a misogynist.

So no, Cameron and his little buddies don't give a shit about women.  The only way to get women's voices really heard and to achieve true equality is to create change throughout society.  Sexism needs to be called out as much as possible, the media need to really think about what they report on where women are concerned (a tip; what comes out of a woman's mouth is more important than if her shoes match her handbag) and voters need to stop giving a shit what gender candidates are and start voting on people's ability to do the job.  And never forget the Conservatives are still the nasty party; that is unlikely to change.

This is an epic amount to change.  I suspect that the shortlists maybe needed in the meantime, and who knows, maybe just having more women visible and heard will help so in the future men and women can stand equally and be voted in equally.  I hope so.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Yes, I am a f*minist.

As I've got older I've thought more and more about my feminism.  I used to be happy with feeling able to call myself a feminist and that was that but now I want a bit more. 

A few things have happened recently, firstly at my induction for my new job we had an equality and diversity session, during a group discussion my neighbour came out with "...but I'm not a feminist or anything!", because woe betide anyone would think you were.  I said I was and felt a bit pleased with myself for standing by my convictions with no one running off screaming.

The other thing that has been developing over time is a the unfortunate pull of the Comments is Free section of the Guardian website.  There are a helluva lot of trolls below the line waiting for any remotely feminist post to go up so they can jump in with accusations of humourlessness, militancy, man hating etc etc and lots of "what about the menz" type comments.  It is the Guardian so you don't tend to get the "you must be ugly, fat, hairy and unfuckable" crap that floats around twitter but it can still get quite unpleasant, quite relentless and quite silencing.  I decided a while ago that I was going to challenge the misogyny below the line where I saw it and for a while I did.  It didn't take me long to realise that I'd have more luck challenging the brickish nature of a brick wall.

The whole experience has made me feel quite impotent, as if I am screaming my opinions to the wind while the world goes "yeah, whatever" and while I know that what I have to say isn't for everyone why the hell do people go and comment on those articles if they don't want to engage?  Oh yes, they don't want to engage, they just want to tell us what hysterical little bitches we're being and put us in our place.

Image from WickedQueer on Etsy.

Anyway, for the record:
- I am a feminist.
- I do have a sense of humour (I hope) but some things just aren't funny.
- I don't hate men (just the patriarchy).
- When I say I want equality I really mean equality for everyone, not just women...
- And I genuinely believe feminism will help achieve equality.
- I do care about things like the appallingly high suicide rate in young men but again I feel that getting rid of the patriarchy will help as men will no longer feel constricted by societal pressures to behave a certain way.
- I also care about lots of other things besides women's rights but conveniently they often slot nicely together.
- I am sometimes a bit hairy (but hey, that's my choice!).
- I'm probably not all that fuckable to everyone but I really couldn't give a shit.  As long as I think I'm fuckable and anyone I wish to fuck thinks I am then it's no one else's business.  So fuck off.
- I am sometimes a bit militant but some things are worth getting militant over.

So there you go.  I care not if my fellow feminists want to focus solely on women's rights, that is their prerogative.  I care not if they hate men, lots of women have good cause to.  I care not what they look like because it's none of my business.  What I do care about is that women are not silenced, their voices should be heard.  I care that my daughters and nieces grow up feeling confident in themselves with their horizons wide.  I also care that my two nephews grow up feeling able to express themselves however they see fit without censure and with the confidence to treat all fellow travellers of life as equals. 

And now I know that it's not enough for me to pipe up occasionally and declare myself a feminist, it's not enough for me to throw my words to the wind where they can be ignored, I want more.  I will make my feminism a priority in my life (and hopefully at the very least manage to attend the International Women's Day march next year).