Before we dive headfirst into the topics, now seems a good time to acknowledge my privilege, as a middle-class white woman born in a first world country. I have managed to succeed in the professional workplace. Personally I am very lucky.
I believe that all women deserve equality. Moreover I’m realistic enough to know I can never fully understand the challenges faced by BAME woman. The double whammy of intersectional racism and sexism is something I will never have to face. This recent guardian article outlines some concerns with the feminist movement, and gave me food for thought. In particular, does the movement meets the needs of women of colour? How can I be more of an ally? A familiar phrase was echoed in the article, highlighting that only extraordinary women succeed.
“We need to get to a place where there is as much space for rubbish women as there is for rubbish men – then we would be somewhere”
Suffrage in the UK
This is a topic close to my heart, as I am a believer in equality. Everyone, female or male, poor or rich deserves and equal vote in how the country is run. Simplistically, I believe one person equals once vote. #Vote100 celebrates that rich women have been able to vote for 100 years. I am all for celebrating successes, however we need to understand this was not universal suffrage for women. Or even suffrage on the same terms as men. So let’s celebrate it, but make sure we label appropriately – partial suffrage for some (rich) women. 1928 was the date when we actually achieved universal suffrage, that everyone over 21 was able to vote. As you may know, the UK has a long history of democracy*, here is a quick rundown of UK Suffrage in very simplistic terms:
- 1252 – very very rich men can vote
- 1432 – very rich men can vote
- 1884 – rich men over 21 can vote
- 1918 – all men over 21 and rich women over 30 can vote
- 1928 – all men and women over 21 can vote
- 1969 – all men and women over 18 can vote
*use of democracy is interesting here. Nowadays we are aghast at the idea of excluding voters by gender and income levels, but that was the social norm for over 700 hundred years. Clearly these dudes were running a quasi democracy, to benefit themselves under the illusion/delusion of doing social good. Scary isn’t it. You can also play the what if game, would there have been as many conflicts and wars if women were consulted? Would the government run better?
Given we’ve not all been able to vote for a century, I’m very keen that all women vote. It was a hard won fight, that people died for, and to squander that privilege feels very wrong. So women, make sure you use your vote, spoil it if you have to, but make the effort to vote.
I love the theatre, and was able to see the Blue Stockings play at the globe a few years ago. It was really well acted story about the first female students at Girton college, Cambridge in 1896 and how the male scholars reacted towards them.
‘The only thing a woman can own is knowledge…
We must build our Trojan horse and infiltrate from the inside.’
It was a fabulous play …. but what was most memorable was the jawdropper at the end, women could not graduate from Cambridge university until 1969!! Yes 1969, the end of the swinging sixties. The supposed highest seat of learning in the UK has only admitted women on the same terms as men for less than 50 years.
Needless to say this was mega-shocking, that even after admitting students in 1896, they used a smoke and mirrors approach to not let the female scholars graduate. I love the reference to the Trojan horse approach, even though it didn’t exactly work out well. Looking back on it, it just reeks of oppression, and I wonder why we are still holding such institutions in a high regard?
It would be wrong of me to call myself a feminist blogger without commenting on #metoo. As someone who has always believed women, I am so happy that the rest of the world is starting to believe too. To me, this movement has brought out into the public consciousness the views that some men and women hold. These are people who have never experienced sexual abuse, and never seen sexual abuse. Thus they have rationalised it doesn’t exist in their world. #metoo is helping to humanise the many, many victims of abuse and inappropriate behaviour of their abusers.
Moreover, we are learning just how devious some men in power have been. It is frankly scary how they have abused that power. Which strengthens my belief that power and money corrupt. You have to be very strong, principled and self-reflective to ensure you do no evil. My stance is if you have power, there need to be checks and balances, and you need to be open to challenges. More importantly, you need to believe women. I can’t believe this needs to be stated in 2018, but clearly it does, so I shall repeat. Believe women.
Feminism, Money and Society
We’ve covered women’s struggles to get a vote, get an education and to simply be believed. All these are fundamental rights that society has denied women for thousands of years. We have won some battles, had some celebrations, but have we reached true equality yet? I don’t think so, so now I want to talk about money.
Let us consider the following questions:
Is money a feminist issue?
I’d say hell yeah, money is a feminist issue. Most wealth is held by men and passed down through the male line. The highest incomes are earned by men, as the new gender paygap reporting is revealing.
The publications required by this legislation are proving very revealing, and bringing out into the open what us feminists suspected. Most big organisations are paying men more. Men are overpromoted, and women tend to drop out of the workplace. Men occupy more high paying roles than women. It’s great watching the spin, how CEO’s attempt to rationalise paying men more. Actions and commitments are coming out of these disclosures, with most CEO’s providing at least lip service to the idea of promoting more women into higher earning positions. Full disclosures are due by April, when we’ll have a full picture of how the UK is looking. We’ll have to satisfy our curiosity at the moment following the BBC’s approach, (latest update in this article) which isn’t going down too well.
Should women talk about money?
Another aspect of our society that irritates me is how high earners are treated differently between the sexes. Male high earners are categorised and hard working and deserving, whereas females get less favourable treatment. Given the public perception and reaction, I can see why women are reluctant to talk about money, especially if they are making good money. We should be celebrating women that make it, especially those that help and support other women. We can work together to change the narrative, and to call out any sexist stereotyping that we see. Personally I’ve already mentioned colleagues sexism twice this week – and it’s only Wednesday. #livewhatyoupreach.
Moving on from income, wealth and money itself has always been a taboo topic in UK society. I’d argue that women have to start talking about money more. I think the UK has a great tradition of women holding the purse strings and managing housekeeping and savings, and we need to build on that. Why are women not investing as much as men? Why do women have less pension provision than men? Money need not be scary or complex, and we need to break down any barriers that prevent people talking about money. Then once we’ve got the gender pay gap sorted, we can ensure women have all the tools and knowledge they need to invest their money.
I’d like to end this post with the best sweet ever that I got at a #Vote100 event this week. Of particular note is the inclusivity of the design; the colours incorporate those of many suffrage organisations. Did you know there were 52 suffrage unions all working in their own ways to get women the opportunity to vote? Nowadays we only tend to remember the WSPU, the Pankhursts and Millicent Fawcett.
So what do you think? Is money a feminist issue?