Posted by: stelladuffy | May 31, 2015

The Women’s Equality Party question I keep getting asked …

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.”


Responses

  1. Reblogged this on non sanz droict and commented:
    It is time indeed!

  2. I sent an email asking this question myself. I can’t speak for others, but personally the specific thing that confused me is purely the name. I respect everything you’ve done and what the party stands for, it just seemed a strangely exclusive name compared to the inclusive feeling of the group.

  3. Every time I hear the same question, I’ll send people here. I’d add..we’ve HAD an everyone’s equality party – Labour – and related Socialist and pro-democracy movements in which women have participated and it made only a limited (albeit very welcome) impact. Women were even discriminated against in the Labour party and still face sexism within it. Women’s equality is someting we haven’t yet tried as a way of making the world a better place for everyone. Yet it seems to be a feature of those countries where wealth is shared more evenly across the population and education and health standards are the best on the planet. Surely, we deserve and are capable of that in the UK too.

  4. I personally can’t see the problem of a party formed to achieve women’s equality being called the – er – Women’s Equality Party. 😉

    The aspiration is logically an equality for all – but the title plainly acknowledges the current imbalance that must be stated and corrected. I fully support this.

  5. yeah, it’s def a ‘does what it says on the tin’ name!

  6. Thank you so much for writing this – Jo x

  7. It is true that the moment you start to pursue equality for women you are asked why don’t you tackle other inequalities! As if by focusing specifically on issues around gender we are being discriminatory! It’s a way of discrediting what we are trying to do.

  8. Given that I willingly indicated my support for the party, I don’t think it made much of a difference to me – a bloke. The concept is a good one, and perhaps once the aim has been achieved (if ever), the discussion can be revisited. Until then, what’s the big deal?

  9. Yes. Let’s get on with it. Anyone in South Cumbria itching to get started? I’d like to meet you.

  10. So why didn’t you just call it the Feminist Party?

  11. it didn’t come up. people discussed Women’s Equality Party and Equality Party. the first was agreed on.

  12. Great thinking, Stella. I’ll be passing this on to the people who ask me that question….I’ve been working for Women’s Equality for nearly 50 years and this is the first time that I’ve felt that the discussion is in the right ‘arena’ to make a significant difference.

  13. If we address this particular imbalance of power, it will actually help enormously in the way that society and state look at other inequalities.

    I wrote to Stella with some points that I thought it might be helpful for her to consider in a manifesto for the WEP and I found in working up the draft document that if we think about very many issues and try to redress that balance of power that so often prevents women from achieving what they should, the change in the balance builds in benefits for others who are currently adversely impacted by the existing balance of power.

  14. Paula Wright: Not all women identify themselves as feminists (certainly fewer compared to the number of women who identify themselves as women). Thus it’s much more inclusive – and about time. I fully support this too.

  15. I had wondered the answer to this myself so thank you for the beautiful explanation as to why and what must be done to get to where we should be.

  16. Hi Stella, just thought I would let you know that when my eight-year-old daughter said recently “I don’t want to be a girl, boys have more fun than girls and boys get to play more football”, I was pretty surprised. I asked her how boys get to play more football. She told me that the boys ask each other to play during break, and do not always ask her – even though she represents her school alongside boys and plays for a mixed team at the weekend. I was able to relay your story about being six and not being able to play on the big playing field. I then told her that a group of women and men have come together to make a difference, to make men and women more equal – with similar options and chances in life – and that maybe, by the time she’s a young woman, she won’t feel like this anymore. She was relieved. I am relieved. Maybe her daughters won’t have to ask her why there are pictures of semi-naked women on the front cover of men’s magazines (GQ, etc, not top shelf material!), or why toy aisles are pink for girls and multi-coloured for boys. In short, many thanks for your personal explanation of the name: Women’s Equality Party.

  17. What a great post – an inspiring explanation. Let’s do this!

  18. oh. THANK YOU for saying so. xx

  19. Reblogged this on redpearpuppets and commented:
    Why women’s equality party uk…

  20. For me there’s another aspect that needs to be taken on board. When I began working in NY in 1963 and straight on through until 1993 in the UK i found more women were competitively cut-throat towards me than helpful. It was shocking to see these women trying to ‘play ball as well as the boys, in the boy’s usual slash and burn style, rather than the nurturing, cooperative way I associate with sisterhood.

    Particularly traumatic was when one woman, aspiring to replace the head of the company, who was a gay man, fired me in order to hire another, younger, gay man whom she later used to entrap the chief executive. She reported misbehavior in the office and got both men fired. But I had to laugh when another man, YYY told me that she’d been passed over and he’d been offered the head honcho job. Was it the very strong reluctance to put a woman in charge – or because no one trusts an informer?

    If we play according to the rules of competition men lay out, I feel, we sell ourselves out and lose the special qualities that women can bring to a job of work. We’re un-womanned. I know it’s not surprising women shed these qualities because men take advantage of them and put women down for having them, but we need to pull the rug out from under their feet and somehow change the rules of the game-plan. But then I’m not a fan of unenlightened capitalism. I think an opposite attitude should be part of the WE platform: Enlightened capitalism. Not all of you in WE may agree with me but a number of economists are concluding that the present system is unsustainable as well as grievously unfair.

    The last time I applied for an in-house position, the woman interviewing me said “Why would I employ you? You’ll have your eye on my job; you’ll want to replace me.” I wonder, now, what sort of reaction she was looking for but I took her at her word. “I don’t want your job” I said truthfully and that was it. I had no interest in competition. It was the work, the material, that mattered to me. So I dropped out of the rat race and decided to go freelance. Talk about
    taking holy orders and martyrdom but at least I captained my own ship.

  21. Well done you for opting out of the game you describe; and for expressing yourself so eloquently.
    I am entirely convinced that this particular sort of competitiveness (as opposed to the sort where you just want to be as good as you can be) is counter-productive for everyone, including those who play the game themselves.
    In the same way as you might feel un-womaned by getting involved, so I would feel un-manned by indulging in the same charade.
    David.

  22. Tim Pollard, Paula Wright: I expect you are familiar with the quote:
    “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
    ― Rebecca West

    For various reasons, not all women (wish to) identify themselves as feminists, but all women who overtly refuse to be subjugated are liable to be IDENTIFIED AS feminists by others (particularly by those who think the term is an insult, not a compliment).

    Feminism, individualism, and equality are essentially indivisible.

    Bas les masques.

    David

  23. Thanks David, great to have your input.

  24. Stella, I really respect you and wish you and the WEP well. I have one friend who has joined and it’s her first membership of a political party. I’m concerned about the misogyny that is rife in our society right now.

    For my part I joined the Greens just before the election and I want to work for social justice with them. So I won’t be joining but I hope it has an impact

  25. thank you Sandra. I hope we can ALL make a change for the better. (and WE welcomes affiliate members, so you can always join us too …!)

  26. Wonderfully said Stella, I’ve always thought it says a lot about the power and character of women when men have gone to war for far less than the inequality women have experienced for generations.

    Wishing all the future success for WE🙂

  27. At last, hurrah. How do I join though, all the related websites appear to be down. Thanks

  28. not down, just REALLY busy, here you go : http://www.womensequality.org.uk/


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