I want more than a parade.
I want every person who isn’t out all 364 other days to be out – and happily, easily so.
I want to remember the hugely brave pioneers who made it possible for us to be out at all.
I want it to be better and easier and happier for everyone to be out.
I want every straight mate who had a gay fling to come out about it.
I want not to need to be out at all. Ever. In the same way straight people never need to come out.
I want people to assume my friend is my wife and not need to say it every bloody time.
I want all my friends with children to be able dream that their kids might be any sexuality or none.
I want it to be about history and hope as well as partying and playing.
I want it to be much much more than a rainbow flag.
I want it to have been ok for me, at 15/20/25 to think I might be gay and a mother, I might be gay and be with the love of my life for all of my life, that I might have a happy fulfilled life, I want not to have been as scared as I was, I want not to have built slightly different dreams, due to that fear.
And much as I am a glass half-full person (my friends know this about me!) I also really mind that I did not (always) have that hope back then. That so much of my youth – so much of so many of our youths – was hurt by fear and ignorance.
I don’t just want a rainbow, I want the whole damn sun and all of the rain.
And, onwards …
I want more than a parade.
Why the WOMEN’S Equality Party?
Why not the Equality Party?
So, I wasn’t going to do this, as I think it’s self-evident, as I think many of those un-persuaded are often not interested in being persuaded (ie, are asking it merely to barb), as I find it quite painful that anyone might not have noticed there is a case, specifically, for the as-yet-still-unachieved equality of over 50% of the world.
Last night I was asked again, by someone I respect, so here’s my answer.
It’s not WE’s standard answer, which is, usually, “It was debated and discussed at two public meetings. And decided upon because equality for women is better for everyone”.
It’s a true and accurate answer, and also brief. Which is great, because it states a truth: a thing didn’t happen yet, a thing that would be better for everyone – and a remedy: so we’re working on that thing.
But I know that some people I like and respect also don’t get it, so here’s MY longer-winded, and much more personal answer :
Well, the first thing that strikes me is that were this question to be asked of LGBT or disabled or BAME or class equality groups, it would, quite rightly be dismissed as absurd (and offensive) to ask a Black activist group for eg, “why are you only concerned about inequalities affecting Black people?” and yet there is an assumption that women should work on/look after ALL inequalities. What’s even odder about this, is it presupposes that women are not BAME, disabled, LGBT, that women are not doubly, trebly affected by inequality when they are also part of another unequal group, another discriminated-against group. It presupposes that WE are not concerned about these things. WE are, that’s why there are LGBT, working class, BAME and disabled women on the steering group.
(Though, even as I write this, I recall, long ago, as part of an LGBT thing, being asked why I wasn’t working on the problems of straight people too, and I bet there are Black activist groups who have been asked the same question, so … sigh.)
Here’s the thing. This is a choice, my choice. A choice to say, here is one inequality that affects over 50% of the world, and therefore everyone, and I’m prepared to give some time and energy to this attempt to deal with it. (And if someone wanted to start the Equality Party themselves, that would be their choice and it would be great for them to put their time and energy into it. I’d applaud them for doing so. This time and energy I’m giving to WE, right now, is my choice.)
We’ve tried, lots of us, for ages, decades, centuries, within and without the political parties and mechanisms that already exist, and still women are paid less, still women are raped/murdered/abused because they are women, still FGM exists, still girls routinely get treated less equally in classrooms/lecture halls, still religions vilify and shame women, still hardly any women run our major arts institutions (let alone banks, businesses etc), still women do the bulk of childcare, the vast bulk of ‘housework’, still women are the majority of part time (and therefore lowest paid) workers, and still only 30% ish of our UK politicians are women – and that’s lauded as an achievement.
It’s my time I’m using, my ‘spare’ (!) time, my resources, my effort. And this is true of every single one of the thousands of women (and men and non-gender binary people), all of us volunteering, who have offered their time and support since WE grew from a tiny beginning only two months ago.
I’m welcoming any who want to join, to support, to engage – and I don’t see it as up to me to persuade those who don’t – there isn’t time, there are so many who DO want to support and engage, WE can’t keep up with them!
I’m doing this because it matters to me. Because it has always mattered to me. Because, being a girl and a woman, I have always felt – and been – discriminated against. Because when I was six I was told I could not run and play in the big field, because that’s where the boys play.
Because I – and all of my gender – are still being told we cannot play where the boys play.
And because there are so many women, raped, beaten, abused, belittled, underpaid, overworked, uneducated, unsupported women, who do not have a chance to speak up for themselves. So our job is to change the world so they can have a voice – their own voice.
Also, it’s time. We’ve agitated, we’ve legislated, we’ve campaigned, we’ve asked nicely, and we’ve asked angrily. We’ve made equality laws that have been flouted time and again.
Basically, the only thing women haven’t done to get equal rights is go to war. And I don’t want to do that. So I’m trying this.
I wrote this Call to Action four years ago. To me, WE feels like an answer.
Edited to add – and, as Catherine Mayer says: “1 more reason: #WE mean to win, to deliver real change. That requires focus & clarity.”
Lots of people I know are tired, upset and worried today.
Some people I know are furious.
Some people are resigned.
And yes, I even know a few people who are very happy indeed.
Personally, this is not the election result I wanted.
Mind you, even a Labour landslide would have had me worried – and I say that as a Labour voter. I’m tired of adversarial politics. Of politics and politicians that do not reflect the diverse world in which we live. I do support parliamentary democracy (ie, I don’t know of any revolutions, even non-violent ones, that have worked for all of the people all of the time), but I think what really matters now is what we do next, what we EACH do next.
Here’s what I’m going to do now :
– keep working on, promoting, sharing, and developing Fun Palaces. Fun Palaces are about community activism, about engaging from the grassroots up and the local out, about people creating by and for their own locality, with their neighbours. They are about making it possible for everyone to feel able to engaged, and to know that their contribution is welcome. The developing part is in italics because we still don’t know exactly what Fun Palaces is. Are. I don’t expect we ever will. Each of the 138 Fun Palaces last year had the tone of where they were, a sense of their own locality. Each Fun Palace has taught us more about what Fun Palaces might be, can be. We don’t run our tiny Fun Palaces office of four part-timers believing we know what to do and telling signups how to do it. We run it knowing we are learning, growing, changing, developing. It’s the Fun Palaces themselves (the process of making as much as the weekend events) that are teaching us what they are.
– keep working for the Women’s Equality Party. Right now that means answering the massive amount of emails in #WE’s inbox in every spare minute I get. There are emails of support and interest from people of all ages, all genders, every part of the nations of Britain, people identifying as disabled, LGBT, BAME and the most mainstream of the mainstream. They want a new thing, they want to make a difference and they want to help.
I see these two as very linked. Fun Palaces were run by 72% women last year. Maybe that’s because of the Joan origins or because our core team was mostly women. Maybe that’s because women are more likely to volunteer (and 22% of those making/leading Fun Palaces were volunteers), maybe that’s because women are more likely to choose to work within their community, maybe that’s because women have found it harder to get on, been less welcomed as leaders in the mainstream/traditional world … I really don’t know, but that’s what we saw. I see that women are keen to engage, to make change, to do. And I welcome PEOPLE to engage.
I’m also going to get on with my new book. Because I am, after all, a writer in addition to all the rest of my work, and I didn’t stop wanting to tell stories, share story.
We all need to find our own ways to take part, to be IN the world, not outside and saddened by it.
My ways to do that work won’t be for everyone.
Where they are, I welcome you to join me.
Where they’re not, I urge you to find a way to make a difference that suits you.
(At the very least, it feels better than waiting for someone else to make the change.)
I urge you to jump in.