The Foot that Kicks the Cradle rules the World
International Women’s Day 8th March 2013
Have you ever wondered why ships and other forms of transport are referred to as feminine in many languages, as they protect and carry us around our lives? Mankind talks of Mother Earth and Mother Nature in the feminine case as we acknowledge their special role as origins of life, yet by actions foolishly endangers them both.
Through evolution, the immense strength of women has ensured survival of our species, yet the world’s women do not share economic and political equality with men. All around the world women rightfully demand equality with men, but are denied. International Women’s Day was first introduced in the early 20th Century, and highlights women’s solidarity in their fight for economical and political equality for men. In Russia, men celebrate women’s contribution to society by flowers for mothers, wives, and daughters.
Like most political struggles against oppression, equality for women around the world – the majority – does not come by passive action. Women’s suffrage has been a long struggle and continues to be.
Over the past year, the world’s press have extensively covered the story of Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head because she wanted an education. There have also be reports of gang rapes in Dehli. That such appalling injustices can happen, is incomprehensible, and International support against such atrocities must be heard.
But I wonder why, from the Western Press, the emphasis is on Asian injustice against women. Is it to distract from the instrinsic patriarchal societies of the West, rather than recognise the positive influence of matriarchal Indian societies?
In Kerala, for example matriarchal societies existed for thousands of years and a more equal balance between men and women was the norm. British interference led to introduction of the nuclear family denouncing matriarchal societies as outdated.
“Though the matriarchal home is now nearly extinct, replaced by the fiercely nuclear family, the elevation of womanhood, its most unique feature, remains. Keralites, men and women, are proud of this. To this day, it amazes visitors from other states how high Kerala women hold their heads–in the home and workplace–and that they travel virtually anywhere unafraid of harassment.”
The following passage dating from 1863 portrays the environment within which political feminism arose in the United Kingdom and is an excerpt from a treatise on international commercial law, part of a section describing conditions under which a person may be considered unable to enter into a commercial contract. Following the discussion of individuals unfit due to “want of understanding” – covering minors as well as “lunatics and drunkards” is a heading covering individuals unable due to “want of free-will”: married women. Levi was a barrister and his words give his opinion of the legal situation, one which was prevalent at the time.
By marriage, the personal identity of the woman is lost. Her person is completely sunk in that of her husband, and he acquires an absolute mastery over her person and effects. Hence her complete disability to contract legal obligations; and except in the event of separation by divorce, or other causes, a married woman in the United Kingdom cannot engage in trade.
Leone Levi, International Commercial Law, 1863
Fifty years later, and, as it happens exactly a hundred years ago, a young woman Emily Davison, who became a martyr for the suffragette movement threw herself under the King’s horse in “a state of agitation” .
This poster shown from the suffragette movement in 1913, states what seems to be the obvious: that men and women working together as equals will benefit everyone, indeed to divide by gender, class or creed can only result on societal breakdown. It is not a case of women against men, or men against women, but all adults standing as equals and protecting the rights of all.
In 1928, women In Britain received the vote on the same terms as men (over the age of 21) as a result of the Representation of the People Act 1928. But in the twenty first century, inequality prevails while those in power are predominantly male, and white, and with a privileged education, often Oxbridge.
Currently, the UK Coalition government is pursuing policies of austerity. These policies are hitting women and children hardest.
Benefits and service cuts hitting women hardest
Women are hit hardest as the services and benefits they use more are cut. Women typically use state services and benefits more than men for a wide range of reasons. These include:
- Women have pregnancy and maternity needs
- Women are far more likely to be lone parents
- Women are more likely to be the primary carers for children, frail older people, sick and disabled people
- Women are more likely to be the victims of domestic and sexual violence
- Women live longer, often spending the final years of their lives alone
- Women are, on average, poorer than men – particularly so in later life (Fawcett society)
The study Unravelling equality: The effect of poverty on the women of Coventry examines how women are disproportionately affected by this government’s austerity measures. Women are hard hit by loss of Surestart centres, pay cuts and public sector pay freezes, increased childcare costs, cuts to Local Housing Allowance, loss of Legal Aid and cuts to support domestic abuse which will potentially put some women in violent situations. The injustice is that decisions made predominantly by men are disproportionately affecting women.
Educational opportunities have narrowed to some degree in the past 50 years. In the days of the 11 plus, girls had to achieve higher marks than boys in tests to get a grammar school place, so the odds were stacked unfairly against them. When this advantage was removed, girls were outperforming boys, who perhaps expected the status quo to continue. As a result of this, teachers are now expected target lessons specifically towards white boys. And why? The pay gap between men and women is widening. Britain’s female graduates, earn less than men, even with the same qualifications, and the gender pay back is twice as large for women in their 50s, and many of this group are finding that the pension they had anticipated all their working lives is no longer there as they had expected, and planned for. This is no equality!
No progress will be made to move women out of poverty and offer equal opportunities until there is true and equal power sharing in our society. It is shameful that despite the suffragette movement little has changed in 100 years.
In 1997, the record numbers of women candidates were returned. A record number of women candidates stood for election, due, in part to the Labour Party adopting a policy of women-only shortlists. This mechanism was withdrawn in 1996 when an employment tribunal found that is was in breach of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Since then uncertainty about the legal position made it difficult for parties to develop policies on selection procedures aimed at introducing more MPs into parliament. The Labour Party was the only political party to use all-female shortlists in the 2005 and 2010 General Elections.
Think Left have examined the power imbalance in Think Left: Women as Voters and MPs.
At 31.5% women Members, Labour certainly is more representative than other parties, compared with around 16% (Con) and around 12% (Lib Dems) but still has a long way to go in order to fairly represent an electorate in which the majority is female. Compare this to the data , for female involvement in Nordic Countries, of 42.1% female. 51% of the UK electorate are female.
The patriarchal power prevails, and more recently in 2013, the Fawcett Society have published this document, Sex and Power 2013. This chart shows women as a percentage of elected members of UK political institutions, January 2013.
NB: The House of Lords retains a built-in bias against women’s membership in that none of the 26 bishops are women, and only two of the 92 hereditary peers. Almost all women members of the House of Lords are life peers.
- Women have been pro-Labour in 13 consecutive Guardian/ICM polls, with a double digit difference in each of the last six, said Martin Boon, director of ICM research.”It is wise to express caution about the latest development as sample sizes are based on about 250 female votes and similar for men, but for this to be such a consistent theme is no doubt worth remarking upon,” he said.
- Dr Rosie Campbell, expert in voting and gender at Birkbeck, University of London, said: “From the beginning David Cameron talked about the work/life balance, trying to win back women attracted by New Labour – but he has delivered?”A noxious combination of cuts to child tax credits, child benefit, public sector roles more likely to be held by women, pensions and fears over the NHS, childcare and further education were turning women off.
“You can’t get away with relying on the rhetoric if that is not what women are feeling on the ground.”
- Think Left: Women and Children First
- Think Left: Women as Voters and MPs
- Think Left: A Bold Approach To Child Care
- Think Left: Poor Brum (Think Left)
- Think Left: Becoming a Member of Parliament
- Think Left, September 2011 How the Tories intend to regain support from women voters
- Unravelling equality: The effect of poverty on the women of Coventry
- The Fawcett Society: Sex and Power in 2013 March 2013
- Observer: Report shows shocking absence of women from UK public life March 2013
- Guardian: Female Graduates earn less than males
- TUC: Gender pay gap twice as large for women in their 50s
- The Fawcett Society
- Guardian Women now to the left of men
- Guardian Conservatives and women voters
- Guardian CiF Do Tories really think this is how to woo back women voters?
- Tory/Lib DEm Government succeed in mislaying women voters.
- Hinduism Today: Matriarchy
- Matriarchy: Wikipedia
- International Women’s Day
- Women’s Suffrage in The UK