Saturday, December 22, 2007

Women..........what are they good for...certainly not blogging!

Having been rather distracted with work and parties over the last couple of days I am entering the women bloggers debate rather late. As I have commented before, it has been great to see an explosion of prolific women bloggers join the blogosphere over recent months. What the guys don't seem to get is that if you are in a minority you are acutely aware of it. So Jonathan's complaint about why we need a women's blogging award "are we the weaker sex?" rather misses the point.

Going into broken record mode I wonder how many all white male gatherings ever notice when there are no women or BME members present? I am reminded of being on a women workers conference many years ago where a huge debate ensued about whether sexism or racism was worse. A white woman said to her black colleague "But Pauline, whenever you walk into a room I don't see the colour of your skin" Pauline replied "But I do". That reply has stayed with me for over 20 years.

To repeat some Lib Dem specific examples (regular readers look away, you have heard all this before!). On getting up to speak on the "Meeting the Challenge" debate I spoke after 14 white men. My first question to conference was "notice anything different about me?" Afterwards William Wallace was gracious enough to acknowledge that until I mentioned it he hadn't noticed. At Spring Conference I went to a fringe chaired by Brendan Carlin. When it came to questions, along with maybe 2 other women, I had my hand up from the start. When Brendan finally came to me, following maybe a dozen questions from men I made the point. He also hadn't noticed what he had done. What happened subsequently was also interesting. Not only did he balance who he called, but around another half dozen women had put their hands up.

Now, some of the guys will tell us that this is women's problem, they should be more forthcoming and confident. But unless you understand some of the ingrained attitudes that spring from generations of white male domination of all our institutions and decision making apparatus you understand nothing. I am white, I would never presume to tell my black friends how they should be feeling, or to suggest that how they are feeling is their fault. I have never ever suffered the effects of racism except by proxy. But some men seem to think they can make excuses for their centuries of domination and tell women it is all their fault. OK, if you are a "WHAM" (white heterosexual able-bodied man) there is not a lot you can do about it, no one is asking you to! All I ask is that you recognise that you don't have our experience. Attitudes are sub-conscious as well as conscious. Something I have touched on before.

So, on to the question of women bloggers. My title is certainly tongue in cheek, but when I first started blogging I have to admit to feeling a little intimidated by the boys. There were codes and styles and expectations that I didn't understand. I was helped and encouraged very much by Duncan Borrowman (thanks Duncan!) but hard as it may seem to believe now, I was quite nervous, I felt as it I was entering someone else's world. The same nervousness that Pauline may have felt walking into a pub full of white men, you are not automatically "part of the club" and those in the club don't see that from outside it appears like a club. Yes, the fact that there is to be a women bloggers award is an admission of failure not success. We do not yet, particularly in our party (shame on us) do representative politics. If we can encourage more diversity in political debate through this award then I fail to see how this is a bad thing.

Rant over!

Anyway, I am going to nominate the following:

  • Alix Mortimer - Alix really should make a career of writing, she writes beautifully and with such sensitivity (something I covet, but it ain't gonna happen!) I first came across Alix when she left a comment on a blog I did on whether blogging was a feminist issue. Her own blog on the subject was far more erudite than mine so I am also nominating that as the best post.
  • Charlotte Gore - Charlotte is a great new addition to the blogosphere and I love her passion!
  • Jo Hayes - Jo doesn't post that regularly but when she does they are a must read. Jo combines intelligence with wonderfully dry humour. Her post on The Islamist is a must read.
  • I am only allowed three but I also want to include Meral Ece, this post on the leadership demonstrates for me why she is a woman we should all be listening to.

Women that I would like to see blogging.

  • My pal Yasmin Whittaker Khan - she is a phenomenal writer, when she gets down to it, and leads a fascinating life, so her blog would be controversial, funny and as the article I have linked to here demonstrates, sometimes disturbing.
  • Miriam Clegg - for the inside story on the challenges of being married to a party leader!
  • Sarah Ludford - Sarah is someone I don't always see eye to eye with, but I like her spirit and forthright manner, another woman likely to shake us up a bit


Rob said...

Great post. As one of the WHAMs you mention, I feel suitably reassured that you're not out to accuse people like me of causing the problem. We're all on the same side here, promoting the interests of anyone whose voice isn't being heard. Despite my doubts about the idea of the award, I think we can all unite behind the basic principle that women's participation in blogging and politics in general should be encouraged.

Linda Jack said...

Thanks Rob and of course I am not out to accuse anyone of causing the problem, I can do no more about being a white short woman than you can about being a white man. I think (well trust) that as Lib Dems we are agreed on the outcomes we want to see, we may just differ on some of the processes we think we should use to get there.

Paul Walter said...

Excellent post Linda

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

You can nominate as many people as you like, for as many categories as you like, so thanks! Anyone can make a nomination simply by going here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

Very big hat tip - hope you don't mind just done a parody of this comment. I have no intention of claiming it as my own. Its just fun!

The Bombastic Bedouin

Jonathan said...


Thank you for the link.

But why do you put a phrase in quotation marks when in appears nowhere in my posting?

Jo Anglezarke said...

Nice to see we're all putting the Clegg/Huhne fights behind us now...

Linda Jack said...

Yes Jo, I hope so. Sorry to continue the military analogy, but a time for regrouping to take on the real enemy methinks!