Saturday, February 23, 2008

Male Chauvinist Piggery?

I read Bob Shaw's piece with interest......I started to leave a comment and then felt a blog coming on! OK, I admit it, I am a weak little woman......all 5 feet of me - I have never been strong and I have never been tall! Plus, I am left handed which of course makes me sinister too. In reading Bob's piece I was reminded of the time I went to a meeting with a bunch of Unison members I was due to be representing. There was clearly some dissent in the ranks and the woman who had invited me in had been concerned. At the end of the meeting she said "When you walked in and I saw the size of you my heart sank, but you've been brilliant!" Hmmmm, yes of course, my ability to represent members and deal with dissent, is directly related to my size. But that story for me illustrates what we all do to a greater or lesser degree, make, often subconscious, judgements about people and their ability/lack of it based on their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, age, accent, height, clothes sense (or lack of), body language........... It seeps in all over the place, the former we have legislation to try and mitigate, the latter, none.

The issue Bob had taken up was to do with Brian Paddick's idea to have women friendly carriages on the tube. As someone who regularly takes the tube late at night I feel perfectly safe since there are usually lots of people around - I am more nervous waiting on deserted train stations like West Hampstead late at night. But as Nich Starling has pointed out in a comment on Bob's piece, it is actually men, and young men in particular, who are more at risk of crime than women. However, if I was attacked by a strong man I wouldn't have much of a chance...........if I was attacked by a strong woman I wouldn't have much of a chance either!

So, Bob is concerned that he may be seen as a male chauvinist. I don't think so. A male chauvinist is someone who wants to treat women differently because he sees them as inferior. Bob wants to treat women the same because he sees them as equal. (If I have misrepresented you Bob please let me know!) This is why we are continuing to have this difficult debate within the party. Where I part company with Bob is that his position doesn't take account of the historical context which has meant we do not have a level playing field, for all sorts of reasons. For anyone to be able to compete they need to have had the same opportunities. This clearly has not been the case. It is not that long ago when I was in the army, that I would have had to leave had I got pregnant, and was not allowed to go on a Chinese language course for fear I might get pregnant! And not that long before that women teachers had to stop teaching if they got married. We still have a long way to go and part of redressing the balance, not only for women but for others who are discriminated against, has surely to include some forms of positive action.

1 comment:

Bob Shaw said...

Thanks for the link Lindz!