There’s a lobby group, sorry “think tank”, which has come to my attention lately, that doesn’t sit right with me. It is called Women On and its mantra appears to be “Women On campaigns for women, but not at the expense of men”.
In a previous post, I had a bit of a skirmish with its founder Charlotte Vere on twitter, and vented my 140 character-limited frustration on the blog. But this mantra has kept me thinking.
Spurred by her apparent defence of the status quo against all comers, I asked Charlotte at the end of our debate whether there was anything she believed needed *changing* for gender equality? Having spoken out against quotas for boards, and in support of page 3 nudity, photoshopped “beauty” and Top Totty beer in Westminster, I was struggling to think whether there was anything recently that had angered my feminist sensibilities and upon which we had agreed.
Her response was to list three areas upon which I can agree with her: “Taking gender out of parental leave. Improving choice in childcare. Improving education re careers etc. etc,”.
The first in particular was spot on for me. I am passionate (to use a much repeated and slightly nausea inducing Cameron favourite word) about the campaign for gender equality in parental leave. I believe that when raising a child within a couple, that couple should be able to decide who takes time out of their career to care for the child. As a woman, I shouldn’t have the advantage of maternity leave over my partner (and nor should I have to bear more than 50% of the resulting workplace discrimination for being a human of child-bearing age).
And I was actually reassured to find that we agreed on some things – because I am (currently!) a right-leaning feminist – though increasingly questioning the viability of that position.
So I sat back and tried to work out the route that the line – over which we disagree – runs. And I think the problem starts with her mantra. “Campaigns for women, but not at the expense of men”.
Some equality issues have clear and obvious benefits for men as well as women. Some equality issues have more subtle benefits for both genders.
But you know what? Sometimes for women to get their fair cut in the world, a man – or men generally – may have to lose some of their privilege. It’s the natural consequence of the fact we are not starting with a clean sheet.
If men currently hold all the board positions, some men will “lose out” on future positions, if women are to get their fair share.
If NHS spend is finite, then increasing spending on childbirth facilities will have to take money from other programmes – potentially ones that serve male, or multi-gender publics.
If social services spend is finite, then increasing funding for domestic violence survivors, or rape survivors will find money going to help more female individuals than male (*Big note to readers: survivors of both these crimes are both male and female – and child secondary victims/witnesses are certainly both genders, but statistics currently show victims of these crimes as being disproportionately female).
And if men are currently enjoying the view of female tits and arse in their morning paper over breakfast, and in their paper over lunch in their work canteen, they might just have to start enjoying other imagery so that I don’t have to sit there feeling insecure or vulnerable. And you know what, while we are on this? It *ISN’T* my problem that I feel insecure while you ogle a beautiful woman’s breasts. You would too if I were copping an eyeful of cock over my cornflakes. Let’s please admit that.
I guess my point is; I don’t want to shit on men. I don’t want to put them *below* women in the pecking order. I don’t want to create an aggressive matriarchy, replacing the current patriarchy in all behaviours and characteristics barring the gender of the oppressors. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all truly equal?
BUT we can’t all be winners all the time. And controversial as this sounds, some men might just need to step back from pole position, if there is to be room for others at the serving hatch of life.
We are so busy getting men onside with our equality cause, that I fear we sometimes forget (or perhaps deliberately gloss over) these facts. For women to start drawing for second place, men will need to step out of first and into second alongside us.
So if you are a think tank that refuses to support causes that are currently dealing unfairly for women, because you are worried that men will suffer a bit in the journey to equality…. you don’t speak for me, and you cannot represent me.
And I am a little bit scared about the power you seem to be building within Westminster and the media, particularly among the vulnerable-to-having-their-heads-turned-back-to-the-status-quo right wing women.