On 14th January I went to a 5x15 event at Methodist Central Hall presented by the Women's Equality Party. It was the first major event since WEP’s launch in October 2015. Speaking at the event were Caitlin Moran, Sophie Walker in conversation with Tanya Moodie, Rosie Boycott in conversation with Jo Brand, Catherine Mayer and Sandi Toksvig. The capacity of Methodist Central Hall is 2,300. It was full and I am sure could have sold out twice over.
WEP’s central premise is that equality is better for everyone. While there must be few that disagree with that as a notion there are sadly many who are not prepared to do much if anything to achieve it. As Catherine Mayer said at the event and later wrote in the Evening Standard politicians are happy to talk the talk but not many walk the walk (Justin Trudeau an honourable exception). The net effect is that the patriarchy endures not through active resistance to equality but by good intentions undone by inertia. This is bad for women, it is bad for men, but worst of all, it's bad for children.
WEP has six objectives:
- Equal Representation
- Equal Pay & Opportunity
- Equal Parenting & Caregiving
- Equal Education
- Equal Media Treatment
- End Violence Against Women
A few moments’ thought surely brings the irresistible conclusion that in respect of each of those objectives we have a long way to go. There are more male MPs in Parliament now than there have EVER been female MPs. There are 7 women in the Cabinet of 22 Ministers. This is the highest number ever and it is not even one third. There is still, STILL, only one female Supreme Court judge as I months ago lamented.
People do not walk around slack-jawed in amazement because this supposedly represents progress. But progress is not inevitable and the speed of it at times would make a sloth seem Boltish. Progress requires actions not words. WEP is a result of action by a formidable and commendable bunch of women and its aims will not be achieved without the continuing actions, large and small, of a great many other women AND men.
Two sage pieces of advice I recently saw for men inclined to self-identify as feminist are: first, listen don’t talk and second, when you do, talk more to men than women. Feminism like WEP is a party to which men are invited but it is not our party. It would be churlish and wrong to decline the invitation and there is the promise of an almighty good time for all but only if men don’t try to choose the caterers, venue, dress code and music.
Of course there has been criticism. It’ll split the vote, it’s the narcissistic vanity project of white, middle class metropolitan Guardian readers with too much time on their hands, it’s bound to fail, why women’s equality why not just equality.
All those criticisms can be rebutted. If mainstream parties are not acting on their declared ambitions for promoting equality then they are failing those that want equality and do not deserve their vote. WEP’s already 40,000 or so nationwide membership suggests an appeal and a hunger that reaches far beyond the borders of Islington. It will only fail if we let it fail and to do so would be no indictment of Sandi Toksvig and her band but of us. The very notion of equality encapsulates equal treatment and opportunity for all but it is self-evident that in so many ways it is still women who are being held back, belittled, beaten and bruised.
I sincerely hope WEP achieves its objectives and will lend it whatever support I can because I can find no fault with any one of its objectives and because it is a movement of hope looking for concrete change in a world which in some ways is not changing at all.
If you agree you can join here: http://www.womensequality.org.uk/join