When we talk about the social, political and economical equality of both men and women, what is it we actually mean?
Well, for me it means that when I walk into a room I am automatically not just seen as a woman, but someone who may offer interesting and academic thoughts about any topic that might be discussed. It means that we stop referring to women as mothers, daughters, sisters, wives before we refer to them as human beings. It means that people respect that even though I am a woman I might actually be interested in football. It means that when a topic comes up that usually has male connotations, people do not say to me, “but what would you know about that? You’re a woman.” It means that I am no longer told to ‘stay in the kitchen’ because for some reason it is an unwritten official rule that women should be the ones who cook and clean and do nothing more than worry about the price of Vanish Oxyaction and the latest Dyson Hoover.
As for politically, it means that there is equal representation of both men and women in government. There are currently 503 male MPs, and 147 female MPs in the UK government. How can you have a government with under a quarter of the MPs being women, and the rest men? (Predominantly white males, I imagine. In the 2010 election, there were 27 MPs of ethnic minorities) There are millions of women in the UK, who are all part of the society that the government is supposed to listen to and provide for. If the government is predominantly male, then the women in the UK are not being represented and the decisions the government may make concerning females (such as passing laws on abortion, rape, domestic abuse, discussing breast cancer screening or the availability of gynecologists working for the NHS etc.) are going to be misinformed without female MPs being involved in making these decisions. Apart from the actual political implications, having less female MPs in government gives the impression that women are not powerful and are not able to work in jobs in the government. It shows young women aspiring to work in politics that is unnecessarily harder for them to be taken seriously in politics, and there is just not a sufficient amount of female MPs in the government for women to rely on as an example of women’s success in politics. Yes, we may have had a female prime minister, but only one, and more often than not people would agree that dear Maggie Thatcher was a disaster. It is not enough to say, when women complain about inequality in politics, “but we’ve had a female prime minister! That shows that women can rise to the top in politics. What more do you want?”
What more do I want? I want a female prime minister, again and again, as regularly as we have male prime ministers. I want a black male prime minister. I want a black female prime minister. I want Asian prime ministers, Middle Eastern prime ministers, Indian prime ministers, and more and more frequently. I want every single ethnic background to be prime minister, at least once, but above all, I want female prime ministers! And NOW!
Now we come to economic equality. Contrary to popular belief (hold onto your hats here, ladies) women are still not paid the same amount as men for doing the same job at the same skill level. The difference in pay for men and women in the UK, based on median hourly earnings for full-time workers, increased from 9.5% last year to 10%, but for all employees, including part-timers, the figure rose from 19.6% to 19.7% said the Office for National Statistics. Basically, women are earning about £5000 less a year than men. And believe me, the significance of this is incredibly great. It not only shows blatant economic sexism of employers and large companies, but it also shows how despite all progress in the availability of jobs for women and men and women working alongside each other, women rising to considerable positions of power in a company will still earn less than men of a similar position or perhaps even a position lower than them. Women deserve economic recognition of the work they do. They deserve to be paid in reflection to the amount of effort they put into the job, and the position of the job that they hold.
What are your thoughts, and do you think us women are being unreasonable in what we ask?