Is it really only 80 years?

As Ros and Jennie have already noted, it is 90 years ago today that women got the vote. 80 years since they got the vote on the same terms as men and 50 years since they were allowed to enter the House of Lords.

And, although all is technically equal on the legal front, we are still having to loosen, finger by finger, the grip that men have on power and money. We have just 19% of our MPs female, even less running our top companies and the pay gap, well, it's still the pay gap and interestingly (or if you're me, bloody annoyingly) gets wider the higher up the career ladder women go! I reckon, that we're about 20% down the road to equality; you know, real equality, in how we live our lives, as opposed to equality in the eyes of the law.

Women's unpaid labour is still not included in national accounts, with all the implications for public policy that that entails, rape conviction as a proportion of reported rapes is frightenly low and I don't seem to be able to walk down the road or get on a bus without having a highly sexualised image of a women presented to me at every opportunity. My favourite one to hate at the moment is one advertising a programme called 'Skins'; I really enjoy having to look at that at the bustop surrounded by primary school kids.

There's an excellent article in the Guardian about it where Katherine Rake, the Director of The Fawcett Society.

It's a wide ranging interview looking back, as well as forward, but for me she really hits the nail on the head for me when she says:

"We are only half way through the revolution: there has been a huge change in women's lives but very little in men's. We have got to look at what happens in men's lives in future, in terms of a fairer division of labour and getting the benefits and costs of that."

Such completion of the revolution means wading into the private sphere to challenge the very way most of us live our lives, but Rake remains unapologetic. "There has to be a day that happens. This is very much a part of [Fawcett's] heritage. Unless you talk about changing the rules, about social transformation, the fundamental rules don't change and you are not going to be offering equality for women.

"We have done as much as we can levering women into a system designed by men for men. Now we have to work for a society where the rules are fitted for everybody."

Don't worry! I too, the good liberal that I am, get nervous when people talk about wading into the private sphere, but she has got a point.

To be honest, I think this is what we've been trying to do in the Lib Dems for too long; we have been focussing on getting women to change and to go on all sorts of training so we can play the selection game the same way the guys do.

When we get our heads around the fact that diversity is not about looking different on the outside but, in fact, about doing things differently and that it's possible to believe in liberalism but approach the practice of politics differently, we will start to make some progress on diversity.

And changing the way we do things (the rules) means everyone, including men and I think that will make politics and liberal democrat politics, in particular, better for all of us, not just women! Hooray!


agentmancuso said...
6 Feb 2008, 16:33:00

"Such completion of the revolution means wading into the private sphere to challenge the very way most of us live our lives"

Rake has a point all right: it's that social engineering on a massive scale is the only way the state could enforce 'equality' of any other sort. There is an argument that the state should do just that, of course, but it is the opposite of liberalism. Equality in the eyes of the law is the only sort of equality that concerns the state in any way.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
7 Feb 2008, 19:14:00

Wow! That’s some fantastic framing you’re doing there! ‘Enforce ‘equality’’! Well, one man’s enforced equality is another woman’s liberation, I guess!!

Seriously, I don’t want the government to come in and tell me how to live my life but I am aware that the personal is political.

Attempting to create economic policy without really understanding family dynamics, for example, is somewhat doomed to make life worse for those who do the majority of unpaid and unrecorded labour in the home.

Until women get a real choice about whether they are going to undertake all or most, or in fact just be the one responsible for making sure that someone does the childcare in the family, whether they have children or not, they are going to lose out in the work place.

Plus, does it occur to you that equality in the private sphere could also improve the lot of men?

I may be misunderstanding you but your laissez faire approach doesn’t seem to have much in it for me, as a woman.

agentmancuso said...
30 Apr 2008, 20:28:00

"your laissez faire approach doesn’t seem to have much in it for me, as a woman."

It's not designed to appeal to you as a woman, anymore than as person of a certain colour, or as a member of a particular church. It is aimed at you qua citizen, which is the only capacity in which you relate to the state.

"Until women get a real choice"

"women" never get a real choice. Collective nouns do not exercise choice. Only individuals exercise choice.

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