Feminism Is Like Sex.
I tried writing this while listening to the BBC Woman’s Hour election debate episode but couldn’t quite concentrate while UKIP’s Diane James talked about her party’s ‘fair’ policies.
Today’s one is going to be both political and feminist because I believe those things are completely intertwined and should be seen as being completely intertwined.
My mum asked me whether I’d listened to the Women’s Hour episode (see above) and I said I hadn’t but would. However, in true Lily fashion, I also went on a bit of a tangent about the separation of women and men’s politics. Because I felt like I didn’t quite articulate myself well enough (hard to believe, considering how beautifully written this blog is) I’m going to try again, with the aid of Women’s Hour, Google, and the backspace button on my computer.
We hear loads of stuff about how women are unrepresented in the House of Commons (currently only 22%, compared to 51% in the UK), and how the current government have a complete disregard to maintaining gender equality (eg. classing sanitary products as ‘luxurious’ and ‘non-essential’) and how even Labour got trying to encourage women to vote so wrong (pink vans ring a bell?). What we don’t hear much about is how these problems can be resolved. The resolution I’m going to discuss today is positive discrimination.
positive discrimination /noun/: the act of giving advantage to those groups in society that are often treated unfairly because of their race, sex, etc.
The way in which this can be done is by setting a quota for the number of MPS in the House of Commons (or Lords) that are female and male. This means you can guarantee a fair number of women MPs (51%, I guess, would be the ideal amount).
This would almost guarantee ‘women’s issues’ would be debated (eg. sanitary product tax) and the women of the country’s views would be much more fairly represented.
The first problem with this is with the method of allocating MPs. Positive discrimination means that women wouldn’t be chosen for their skills, or qualifications, but for their gender. Isn’t this the very issue we should be trying to fight? I can’t help but think of the gender pay gap. The gender pay gap, 19.7% in 2013, is based on the fact that women are paid less on account of their gender. Shouldn’t we be concentrating on trying to remove this bias, not instilling the reciprocal of it into our political system?
However, positive discrimination would provide a ground for which representation of women can be fair, which is essential if we ever want gender equality to be achieved. It’s stupid that the need for positive discrimination is so high, but it is.
I, personally, have a bit of an issue with the separation of gender-orientated policies. Yes, it may be hard to see how the tax on sanitary products negatively affects men (no judgments here) but things like free childcare hours and maternity/paternity leave are not gender exclusive. This relates to the issue of men’s rights activist groups. The things these groups fight against (eg. unequal maternity and paternity leave) are a result of gender inequality. The reason women have longer leave is because, traditionally, women were (and still are) expected to stay at home and be the sole childcarer, while the man goes out and works. Not only is this hetero-normative, but it also reinforces gender roles and stereotypes.
Gender equality benefits both sexes, and all genders.
In conclusion, positive discrimination is not really a good thing in itself (why have we got to this point of needing it?) but would ensure women, and their views, are fairly represented. The fight for gender equality (aka. feminism) is for both sexes, and needs both sexes to succeed. A bit like sexual reproduction.
hey! i'm an 21 year old medical student (currently intercalating in anthropology) living it up in east london! i spend my spare time playing dixie chicks on guitar (badly), attempting to do yoga and turning it up at my church.