It’s a very interesting, although sometimes disturbing and depressing, time in the world at the moment. Because the UK has its second female Prime Minister, and the USA has its first female presidential nominee, there is a lot of chat about women breaking the glass ceiling. I welcome that but I think we’re quite a way from actually breaking it. (I love Kathy Lette’s description of it sometimes feeling like being handed a ladder so women can get up close to polish it!) However, let’s not be downhearted, there is progress and it is utterly refreshing to see so many pictures of women featuring on the world stage. What role models for our children.
Back in 2013 I interviewed Joan Smith, a writer and journalist with a passion for women’s rights. She had published a book called The Public Woman which contained the following universal Bill of Rights for Women. I think it’s timely to repeat it:
I. Women are born free and equal to men. All human beings have the same rights; they have a responsibility to ensure that those rights are enjoyed by everyone, regardless of gender.
II. Women and girls have the same right to bodily integrity as men and boys. No one should be expected to tolerate physical or sexual abuse, sexual harassment or any form of genital mutilation.
III. Women have the right to safe contraception and abortion. They should be able to live with any children they bear until the child reaches the age of 16, except in cases of abuse.
IV. Girls are entitled to the same level of education as boys. Literacy is essential to enable women to participate in civil and political society.
V. No one, whether male or female, should be married under the age of 16; in some circumstances, 18 may be preferable. Adults have an absolute right to choose partners of either sex or live alone.
VI. Women and girls have an unconditional right to use and enjoy public space, for both social and political purposes. They have the right to exercise, take part in sport and observe it on the same terms as men.
VII. The law should not dictate how women dress, except in circumstances where safety or identification requires it. Children cannot give informed consent and should not be required to adopt religious forms of dress.
VIII. Women have a right to equal working conditions and pay, and to transparency in pay structures so that it can be enforced.
IX. Women should enjoy the same property and inheritance rights as men.
X. Abuse on grounds of gender is as abhorrent as racism.
XI. Law should be secular and apply equally to men, women and children. Separation of church and state is essential to protect human beings from discrimination on grounds of belief or absence of it.
XII. The state has a moral obligation to ensure that women and girls are free to enjoy these rights, and to guarantee them when they are denied.
Joan recently published an article in The Guardian UK newspaper about what she sees as rise in misogyny in the current political climate (you can read it here) .
Fast forward a couple of years and I interviewed Catherine Mayer, who along with Sandi Toksvig, set up the UK Women’s Equality Party. These are the 6 principles of the Women’s Equality Party:
Equal Representation. Power is not shared equally in our society, and this hurts us all. If women held equal power, the whole country would benefit. Women’s experiences would be better reflected in the decisions Parliament takes. Our economy would grow more strongly. Violence against women and the specific needs of women in our health service would be taken more seriously.
Equal Pay and Opportunity
Forty-five years after the Equal Pay Act, for every hour they work, women still earn just 81p of every pound earned by men. Women earn less per hour, less per job and less overall.Between them, all the men in the UK earned £516 billion last year. But all the women together earned just £272 billion. The contribution of women to our economy and our society is undervalued, both in paid work and at home.
This is crazy: if we unleashed the true potential of women the economy could grow by an extra 10% by 2030 – adding an extra £180 billion to growth. That’s £2,850 for each and every one of us.
Equal Parenting & Care Giving
The joys and responsibilities of parenthood are not shared equally in our society. And in later life, care for elderly parents tends to fall to daughters, rather than sons.This holds back women in the workplace and is one of the big causes of the gender pay gap. But men lose out, too. More and more men want the opportunity to care for and enjoy time with their children or parents – but they find themselves penalised, or sometimes looked at as unmanly, if they choose to stop working or go part-time.
WE want to see truly shared parenting and caregiving.
It will help reduce the pay gap and permit more women to take on decision-making positions in business and beyond. It will enable more men to take on the challenge of childcare. And most importantly of all it will mean more children benefit from time with both their parents.
From the moment they are born, our children are fed gendered expectations about their future life. Boys are taught to like trains, astronauts and dinosaurs, and to stay away from dolls and toy kitchens. Girls are taught to play princesses and fairies, dress in pink and try not to get dirty.
As they reach their teenage years, our children start to make gendered choices about subjects and careers that help entrench the pay gap later on. And they are thrown into the complexities of sexting, revenge porn and sexual consent with little support, guidance or advice.
This has to change. We can teach our children to challenge what they see in the media. We can teach mutual respect in sexual relationships and tackle the underlying causes of violence against women and girls. We can show boys as well as girls that caring for others does not make you weak, and start to set an expectation of shared parenting for the next generation.
We can use our nurseries and schools as engine rooms for possibility, inspiring young women and men to achieve their full potential, free from gendered expectations about the life they should lead.
Equal Media Treatment
Do you find yourself getting angry at things you see in the media? WE do.
Sometimes it’s adverts telling us to starve ourselves to look acceptable and sometimes it’s women’s sporting victories being ignored on the news. Sometimes it’s the trivialisation of violence against women and sometimes it’s gratuitous sexualisation. And sometimes it’s the trolling, abuse and violence perpetrated on social media that never seems to get taken down.
It’s time to stop getting angry and start taking action. We all know that the picture of women presented in the media is false, so let’s speak out together and change it.
Equality in the media is essential because it will help us achieve all our goals. If the media showed the equal country WE want – it would show dads caring for children alongside mums. It would show women going into politics without being criticised for their clothing choices. It would show the benefits of strong, consenting relationships. It would show human beauty as it really is, behind the photo editing.
End Violence Against Women
It is a stain on our society that women can be murdered, violated, assaulted or oppressed because of their gender. No woman is free until she is safe.
But thanks to catcalls in the street, everyday sexism, the chance of being groped or molested on public transport, and domestic violence in the home, millions of women feel unsafe every day of their lives.
70% of girls say they have suffered sexual harassment in school. Around 1.2 million women suffer domestic abuse a year and nearly half a million people are sexually assaulted. There are more than 250 rapes or attempted rapes every day. It has to end.
Of course, men and boys are also affected by violence and abuse and should be protected, too.
Action to tackle domestic and sexual violence and abuse will benefit everyone – male victims included.
Sophie Walker has been elected the first leader of the Women’s Equality Party and recently stood in the London mayoral elections. I have an interview with her coming very soon. There is evidence that the voices of gender equality are being heard as some of the things WEP campaigned for have been adopted by the current London Mayor. Good for him. I feel like I’ve been banging on about all of the above for most of my life and it’s great to see so many young women getting enthused (and men).
My greatest wish is that we could adopt a kinder, less adversarial style of politics which would engage with a more diverse society. Diversity in business creates the conditions for better results financially and in all areas. It’s true for politics, too. For me, that has to be first and foremost about making sure that one gender doesn’t dominate the other, regardless of ethnicity, class, origins, individual politics, etc. I truly believe that a world where women are valued equally will be a much better place for all of us. So, I guess I’ll keep banging away it about it and doing what we can here at Changing People to help women feel strong/confident/empowered/add your own word/ enough to join and enjoy the challenge.
If you’d like to know more about the Women’s Equality Party (which is non partisan, i.e. all political persuasions and none are welcome) here is their link.
Changing People licences experienced trainers to deliver it’s RenewYou programme for women. The revised and updated information is available here.
Posted on August 3rd, 2016 by Jane