Amy Dwyer and Emily Batchelor will be hosting two Fabian Fringe events on gender equality: Reaching Gender Parity in Westminster and Getting Young Women Engaged in Local Politics, both on 19th September.
“It’s alright now though isn’t it, like it’s not really an issue anymore”
“It veers into man-hating too often”
“It’s gone a bit too far”
These are the types of ignorant statements thrown in the faces of feminist activists on a daily basis. Those who argue that the feminist cause has gone too far clearly misunderstand the scale of the problem.
Yes women have the right to vote, yes we can drive, yes we can get divorces and pursue a variety of careers but this does not mean that the fight for equality is over. Feminism has a long way to go and women should not need to feel grateful or content for the rights our ancestors and predecessors fought for. Why is it still seen as radical for women to fight for equal treatment? Or a better question is, why do we still have to fight for equal treatment?
When a misogynist is appointed as a Government trade adviser with the justification that “he’s really good at trade”, we still clearly have a long way to go.
It is no wonder that misogyny is actually on the increase among young men. Hope not Hate research from August 2020 found that half of young men now believe that feminism has gone too far and has a negative impact on men. This demonstrates an alarming level of ignorance towards the harassment, disadvantage and discrimination that women still face on a daily basis. It is astounding that instead of misogyny being non-existent, it is actually on the increase. As with many other pervasive issues within society, education could be used much more effectively to tackle the problem.
If young people were taught in schools about the range of sexism that still exists, from unnecessarily sexualised adverts, the gender pay gap, a proper understanding of consent in sexual relationships, that women in the UK are disproportionally concentrated in low paid, insecure jobs, to the fact that women are 47% more likely to be injured in a car crash because safety equipment is designed for men, then it would create much better understanding and awareness of this important issue.
Women have fought tooth and nail for equality and we are not trying to ignore these successes. Over half of Labour MPs are women now, which is an incredible achievement. We have a female deputy leader of the party and a strong northern woman, which is great to see. However, we also cannot ignore that Labour is the only major party that has never had a female leader. Only 34% of all MPs are women and while this is an all-time record, this is simply not good enough. Within the Cabinet, the figures are even more dire, with women making up only 27% of members.
While the underrepresentation of women is clearly not unique to the UK, our record becomes even harder to justify when you look abroad. As January 2020, we ranked 39th in the world for women’s representation in national parliaments. Amongst our European neighbours we perform poorly – worse than France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Switzerland and Sweden. Leading the world are Rwanda with 61%, Cuba and Bolivia with 53% and Mexico with 48%.
Increasing the number of women in parliament and local government is essential for democracy and to give adequate voice and attention to the important issues that women face every day. These issues deserve mainstream attention and decisive action. Thus it is incredibly important to remove barriers that prevent female participation in government.
Although there are growing numbers of women in politics, it is concerning how many women must be putting their political career aspirations on hold because of institutional barriers that are in place at present. We need to be working as hard as we can to address these so that men and women do have equal opportunities to become MPs or councillors. Effective public consultation with women would hopefully help the party identify these barriers and work towards removing them. One clear barrier is the abuse that women face when politically active. Organisations such as Glitch have been effective at helping women cope with online abuse, but these sessions should not have to take place. Why is it seen to be acceptable to abuse women online and why are women disproportionately the target of this abuse? This is much higher for women of colour and is understandably a significant factor that puts women off running for elected positions. We all know about this issue and yet effective measures have not been put into place to address the problem. We need to be doing more to make politics a safe space for women and especially for women of colour.
We need to bridge the misunderstanding so that there is a consensus that feminism is not excluding men from opportunities, it is simply making sure that women are afforded equal chances. We are happy to use the Young Fabians voice to raise awareness of this important issue and we intend to keep doing so. We will be exploring these issues at the two Fabian Fringe events we are chairing: Reaching Gender Parity in Westminster and Getting Young Women Engaged in Local Politics, both on 19th September. We hope to see you there!
Amy Dwyer is studying for an MA in Politics and is an ambassador at 50:50 Parliament. She is also Women’s Officer for the North West Young Fabians.
She tweets at @AmyDwyer23
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