The role of women in our society is still an important issue. (Although not as urgent to me as say tackling poverty and stopping wars.) This post will argue that inclusive feminism is more productive than hard-core feminism in changing social attitudes and achieving greater equality.
By inclusive I mean trying to get equal not ‘more equal’ status in legislation, policy and entry to events, like some hard core feminists want. (I am a bit scared of them actually).
Some legislation, The Equal Pay Act 1970, for example, no doubt is an important step and leads to greater equality of opportunity. The reason for it, I think is that it gives women and men equal rights, rather than promoting women’s rights over others.
Legislation on parental leave that prioritises maternal leave actually perpetuates gender stereotypes. In today’s society women are expected to be a mother and have a career and if they choose one over the other, they are often looked down on, which is very unfair. (However, from the physical point of view you can’t get away from the fact that a woman actually gives birth and needs time to recover and feed a baby). If men and women had equal rights about taking time off work to look after their child, social attitudes will change over time and therefore in time society will be more equal.
Nick Clegg has recognised this: ‘The Coalition is committed to encouraging shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy – including through the promotion of a system of flexible parental leave.’ (http://tiny.cc/5gbxi )
In my opinion, Labour’s ‘all women shortlist’ is a very bad idea. How is positive discrimination an answer? Just because women were so badly discriminated in the past, it doesn’t mean that it’s our turn now!
Also, this kind of ‘help’ for women to get into politics is somewhat offensive. I don’t know what makes women less capable to be shortlisted on equal basis that they need extra help.
‘Women only’ training sessions, swimming sessions, and other such events where entry is dependent on one’s gender are not any less sexist than ‘men only’ club.
If there was a ‘men only’ training session at conference, there would be a real uproar!
By isolating women we don’t achieve greater equality or change social attitudes. I am sure intentions are good but it comes across as counter-productive.
What we need is more inspirational women in politics. Role models like Shirley Williams, Catherine Bearder, Lynne Featherstone and Sarah Teather do more to get women involved than any discriminatory policy ever will do.
Of course, there are differences between men and women, for example,‘where’s the foetus going to gestate, in a box?’. Also, a man probably couldn’t get away with writing this blog.
But let’s listen to Shirley Williams:
‘the most satisfactory societies are those that welcome the contributions of men and women alike, both to work life and to family life, recognising that they are complementary, and that neither needs to dominate the other.’