Feminism is by its very nature the disruption of the status quo; it is truly radical politics that aim to completely transform society. For that reason, feminism is never going to be popular and it is never going to be a vote winner – it is a utopian vision that is ultimately very difficult to sell as a remedy to people's day to day concerns. The question must be asked, that if the Labour Party's strategy is promoting the politics of consensus, will the party be ignoring radical feminist reforms in the name of favourable polling? Whilst we could all do with following Caitlin Moran's advice of getting up on a chair and declaring ourselves strident feminists, there still remains the question about how this attitude can be implemented in popular policy.
Politics typically works best when we see elected representatives protecting their own interests. The Labour Party was founded by the trade unions with the aim of establishing a place for workers to protect working class interests. The Tories have spent the past four years delivering brilliant policies – for the shareholders of their business investments. The politics of class are still evident in our political system, if to a lesser degree. Fewer Tories are gentry and fewer Labour MPs come from traditional industries, but there is still a sustained focus from both parties of pushing for 'their guys.' Unfortunately, it is also just that. It is more likely that your representative will be a guy, pushing for his guys. It is hard to believe that even the most well-meaning egalitarian will fight tooth and nail for a cause without having politics stemming from personal experience.
This is precisely the reason why we need more women in Parliament, but also the reason that they just aren't getting there. Women and girls are told by society almost every day of their lives to sit down and shut up. Women who speak up and engage with politics are demonised – they are branded as difficult, aggressive, over-ambitious. The more power they occupy, the more they are critiqued according to how they conform to gender norms. This disregards the obvious: the female gender norm is not designed to occupy a position of power in a political system that was made to favour men.
It is only relatively recently that women have suddenly become economically empowered and recognised under the law as integral to the British economy. That said, equal pay is still not a reality. The efforts of Labour's women MPs cannot be discounted on this front but it remains true that during Labour's last term in government, reforms for women were pushed aside in favour of economic reform. The inextricable link between the two does mean that there have been wins for women, like with the introduction of the minimum wage, but this focus also fell the other way, creating the hegemonic myth that the UK overspends on welfare. It has been shown that welfare cuts and caps will ultimately have a stronger negative effect on the lives of women.
The 1997 manifesto said, 'The objectives are radical. The means will be modern.' A One Nation Labour Party should dare itself to go one further – the objectives are indeed radical, so the means will have to be too. In order to upset the patriarchy's apple cart, economic policy must be devised with a concentrated critique of exactly where it's effect will be felt – it may not be popular, but that's the patriarchy for you. We're not there yet. The current political buzzword is 'hard-working.' It's time that progressive politics address the phenomenon that is all too evident in our country – sometimes it doesn't matter how hard you work, if you're born into a working class family, you're likely to earn less over your lifetime. If you're a woman, you're going to be paid less. The United Kingdom addressed how to fight the class divide back in 1900; it's time we took the same approach to gender politics, and radically turn the tables.