Do We Need A Feminist Party in the UK? Mary Beard for PM?


Do we need a Feminist Party in the UK?

As you might expect my answer is yes. What could be more of an inducement to form one than the inadequate political representation for half the population in our seat of *government?

Sweden, however, actually does have a Feminist Party. Here’s some information on **them:

The success of the Feminist Initiative (FI) in gaining one seat in the European Parliament – or 5.49 percent of the Swedish votes – is credited entirely to its leader: Gudrun Schyman. She became a public figure in 1993 when she took over as leader of the Left party (the former Communist party), shocking its members with her high heels, red lips and insistence that they were now a feminist party.

Her many critics were silenced by the fact that she swiftly doubled the party’s representation in the Swedish parliament (reaching an historical 12 percent of the votes). Schyman started the Feminist Initiative in 2005 and has continually shocked her audience by being financed by a billionaire business man, burning €10,000 in public just to make a point and claiming that discrimination in Sweden is the same as practised by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Feminist Initiative first ran for parliament in 2006. They did not win a seat but at one point looked set to win 15 percent of the votes. This had all the established political parties scrambling to declare themselves feminists too. Since then being a feminist has been a “must” in Swedish politics.

FI’s political message is that gender issues can and should be applied to everything in society and that society should recognise how much of it is ruled by male structures.

In 2006, Schyman proposed a tax on men to pay for violence committed against women, arguing that nobody objected to men being paid higher salaries solely because they are men, so paying higher taxes for being a man would be logical. (Her exact quote was: “Nobody’s shocked that men get a ‘willy bonus’ on their salaries.”)

Wow, she sounds amazing, doesn’t she? I’m definitely adopting the ‘willy bonus’ phase. Brilliant.

It set me thinking, who would I like to see in a feminist party here, in the UK? I’ve been fortunate enough to have interviewed and written about some amazing women over the years so I’ve started with them. I’m sure you’ll have different ideas to mine so please do join in the debate.

My UK Feminist Party Nominations

I’m a massive fan of the academic and broadcaster, Mary Beard so she’d be in the top echelons (if a feminist party followed that old patriarchal way of doing things…). Her intellect and maturity would be great and she is not afraid to combat sexism and misogyny when it rears its ugly head.

And speaking of experience I’d also include Miriam O’Reilly. She’s not one to step back from a battle and already has a declared interest in politics. She took on the establishment might of the BBC in a ground-breaking discrimination case so she’d be a great asset. She’s also very media savvy and we’d need that.

I’ve always believed humour is important in all walks of life; you can often convey more in a joke than in the longest worthy speech. So come on down Caitlin Moran! She has a wonderful way of summing up the absurdities of gender discrimination that would appeal to a wide audience, especially the younger voter: heaven knows we need to get more young women engaged in politics. I haven’t interviewed Caitlin (yet) but I’ve written about her and its entirely down to her that I now see big knickers as a totemic emblem of feminism. (You’ll need to click the link for that to make sense). In fact, maybe big knickers might be our UK Feminist Party symbol, we could sell them at party rallies. Any graphic artists out there, please submit your designs to this blog. ;>)

For her experience, policies, and because her party openly supports quotas for women on boards and is led by a woman too, I’d choose Caroline Lucas from the UK Green party (aside-every time I write ‘party’ I  automatically  think champagne and dancing; we might have to make that mandatory at meetings.)

And while we’re in the territory of conventional politics how about Bridget Harris? She bravely blew the whistle on the patronising and sexist antics within her Liberal Democratic party yet ended up being the one to leave. Her party took little notice of the complaints of several women and recently invited the cause of the problem back into the party fold. Pah! Welcome back to a new kind of politics, Bridget!

All of the women above are campaigners and heaven knows, politics needs some real passion. For that reason I’d be ringing Caroline Criado-Perez up and asking her to join us. She’d be on BBC Newsnight in a flash and the twitterati would go mad #UKFP (Not sure I’ve thought that hashtag through…).

I can’t leave out this one. The no more page three campaign has been brilliant in explaining to many why it’s totally inappropriate to have naked women in a daily newspaper, so let’s bring in Lucy-Ann Holmes too!

There are so many wonderful women out there and sadly I can’t list them all for fear of you being found collapsed in a catatonic state over this post, but check out Siobhan Benita,  Joan Smith, Dr Mariann Hardey, Dr Sue Black, Sarah Montague (she’d have to leave the BBC, sorry about that, Sarah), Dr Judith Baxter, Prof Karen Pine…the list goes on and on.

I have written this somewhat tongue in cheek but really, isn’t it a good idea? We’ve made progress but nowhere nearly enough. When I was 18 I thought the idea of feminism would be an anachronism, something I’d tell my grandchildren about. Instead, at 58, I find it to be more important than ever.

*The Scottish parliament in Holyrood has a much better record than Westminster in this regard.

** Taken from ‘the EU Observer and compiled by Ylva Nilsson.

P.S. As well as writing (some might say ranting, tsk) on issues relevant to women, I also have a one day course written exclusively for women called RenewYou. It’s not about big knickers, honestly, or storming the gates of Parliament, but an opportunity for you to reflect and consider what YOU actually want. Your space, your time. No pressure to ‘be’ anything at all, except maybe inspired and invigorated. It’s delivered by a international group of excellent RenewYou specialists across the globe and you can find more details here.


Posted on August 28th, 2014 by

5 Responses to “Do We Need A Feminist Party in the UK? Mary Beard for PM?”

  1. Feminist part/y in the UK? A much ado

    “Do you question me, as an honest man should do, for my simple
    true judgment? or would you have me speak after my custom, as
    being a professed tyrant to their sex?” (1.1.166)

    The above from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, when Benedict admits a certain tone against the entire female population – but with enough humour as an anti-women tirade to get away with this as a ‘nice’ comic gesture.

    Why return to Shakespeare? Because there is hope, Benedict notes that he’s capable of “simple, true judgment” (hurrah), but (oh shame) only of ‘particular women’. Who are these particular women? as well read and well versed as ‘their’ men?

    My point and this holds relevance today is that what is missing is not the general woman-limiting or misogynist gendered spiel (easy to spot, look at any lingerie advert; lack of paternity rights etc.); but appreciation of that there’s an uneasy ease with which we switch between different lenses through which to view women (motherly and goodly; objectified and sexual), while (and I am dealing with broad brush strokes here) using only one through which to view men.

    Both perspectives undermine the regard of women AND men.

    This is why we need a Feminist Party in the UK. For women AND men.

    • Jane says:

      I think the salient point is that once other political parties saw a Feminist Party gaining ground, feminism made it onto the political agenda. If only…

  2. If more proof were needed of the force for good of feminism; then this is it – Woman bashed in face at Notting Hill Carnival her assertion ‘stop groping me’

  3. I’d be flattered to be a part of such an impressive group! Love the Swedish example – I think there is nothing for it but a huge shake up of everything we do – starting in the way things are taught in schools, to stop simplistic sexism from taking root (for example girls toilet’s being ‘princesses’ boys being ‘spacemen’)


  4. Susan Walker says:

    I think we need a Women’s Party like the one that existed after the Good Friday agreement in N.Ireland.It lasted only a short while but it produced 2 MLAs (MPs)and pushed women’s issues up the agenda. Feminism/ist is a ‘turn off’ concept for many young women (the reasons why this is so deserve another posting in themselves) but I would welcome Mary Beard as PM.

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