Newly appointed women's officer for the Young Fabians, Emily Batchelor, discusses what feminism means to her.
Ever since I can remember I have always been a passionate feminist. I was born on International Women’s Day in Epsom Hospital and named after the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison who fought for equal franchise and gave her life in this fight at the Epsom derby in 1913 when she was hit by King George V’s horse. To people who know me, this birthdate makes sense– my passion for gender equality and social justice are indistinguishable from other parts of my personality and inseparable from my wider character.
Every day I am surrounded and inspired by extraordinary, exceptional women. But women still have to overcome endless barriers in our daily life, including sexist and debilitating double standards on career aspirations and physical appearances, sexual harassment and violence, limited access to reproductive autonomy, and the gender pay gap, to name just a few.
I often seem to find myself playing the role of a troublesome feminist, incessantly bringing up women in meetings, groups, and rooms of people, asking - what about women? Who is thinking about our interests? Why are we considered an add-on, a minority to placate with tokenism when we make up over half of the country and the world’s population?
Now, more than ever, women need effective advocacy, representation and allyship. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated how women bear the brunt of crises; shouldering the majority of paid and unpaid care work on health and care frontline services, and domestically as supportive services are revoked. Women’s unpaid care work has been undervalued for far too long, reflecting both women’s lack of equal opportunity and society’s unappreciation of ‘women’s work.’ Women perform 75% of such work globally.
It is clear that we still face systemic and institutional sexism – it can’t be right that women represent only 34% of UK Members of Parliament, 27% members of the Government’s Cabinet, and 7.4% of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs. It can’t be OK that one-fifth of women have experienced some type of sexual assault, that we make up the majority of the world’s poor, and the UK's low-paid jobs are disproportionately concentrated among women, that after 15 months after men leave university they earn on average 10% more than women (even when they pursue similar careers) and that convictions rates for rape are far lower than other crimes. These facts are not natural or inevitable but evidence of an unequal society that has persisted for centuries.
Importantly, women have multiple, complex, and intersecting identities. The distinct discrimination faced by BAME women requires stronger condemnation from the left. As do the huge disadvantages experienced by working-class women and LGBTQ+ individuals in everyday life. As Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
This is what I hope to contribute to the Young Fabian’s as their Women’s Officer. A determination that women have so much to offer society, a conviction that our issues and opinions deserve mainstream political discussion, and a determination to dedicate my career to achieving such overdue and necessary change in this area. As Women’s Officer, I will look to champion the voices of the unheard, vulnerable and disadvantaged - voices which have always been the agents of positive change in our society.
For so many being left-wing and feminist are intrinsically related; the left has and must continue to stand up for women’s rights, equality, and opportunities. Young Fabians have an important role to play in stimulating important conversations on these critical topics, engaging both female and male members in these necessary discussions and a responsibility to show leadership on these gendered issues. True social justice cannot be possible without the liberation of all women.
Emily Batchelor is a 26-year-old working in the homelessness sector, having previously worked in Westminster for Labour MPs. She recently graduated from King's College London with a MA in Public Policy. She is a strong advocate for social justice, gender equality, and poverty alleviation.
She tweets at @EmilyJBatch