Women’s Equality and the Richmond Park By Election

December 3, 2016 at 1:05 pm (Politics) ()

“My problem is Caroline, women’s equality is a single issue for a pressure group, not a platform for a political party” – so sayeth my intelligent politically minded friends who are wondering if I’ve joined a cult with my sudden leap feet first back into the world of politics with the Women’s Equality Party. A few years ago, sod it possibly even a few months ago, I might have agreed with you to some extent. I would still have been able to make an argument how WEP was a damned sight less single issue than UKIP and they still get equal media coverage with the major political parties but anyway. Reading the entire policy platforms of the party, speaking to members and branch organisers from across the country and finally listening to the very powerful and effective words of the party leader Sophie Walker, has convinced me that Women’s Equality Party are far from a single-issue party. They are a single focus party that uses that focus to see new solutions to a wide range of issues.
One of the big features of the weekends conference was adding a seventh key pillar to the policy platform (currently Equal pay, Equal parenting and care-giving, Equal education, Equal treatment of women in and by the media and an end to violence against women) of equality in health provision. “What nonsense!” I hear John Moorcraft and others cry (sorry John) “of course women have equal access to healthcare”. But no, they don’t. Firstly, there are the explicitly women’s issues; limited access to contraception beyond the Pill unless they are willing to go to several specialist clinics, the fact that women cannot decide to have an abortion – they must have two doctors certify their decision first, and the limited number of female GPs in the UK meaning they are usually booked out and unable to see patients who would feel more comfortable seeing a women GP. But beyond our reproductive systems there are other reasons health is skewed against 52% of the population. Research and medical testing is carried out almost exclusively on male physiology. Due to different hormone levels and chemical makeup women will react differently to medicine and conditions. Sandi Toksvig spoke at conference about taking a female friend to the hospital with the symptoms of a heart attack to be told it was a panic attack and not to fuss. This was because the receptionist had only been trained to triage the male symptoms of heart attack (pain in the arm, tight chest) and not the symptoms that women frequently present with (difficulty breathing, nausea and dizziness).
I could (and may well in the future) write bucket loads about lots of areas that were discussed at the weekend – housing, pensions, taxation – all of which when viewed through the lens of gender equality make you see that 52% of the population are not getting a fair deal but the key point is (and I’m directly stealing Sophie Walker’s words here) equality is not a zero-sum game. Giving women a fair deal does not mean men then get a bad deal. One of the reasons the economy struggles to work is we are using an outdated model that functions on the basis of women staying at home to clean, cook and look after children, the elderly and the sick as unpaid labour. In a modern economy, there needs to be access to flexitime, childcare, parental leave, not just for women but for men. There is no reason for anyone to feel threatened by women’s equality as the point is to make society better for everyone. The focus is the need to work together to achieve real change. It was for this reason that Women’s Equality (WE) didn’t put a candidate up for the Richmond Park by election. The local branch sat down with the Lib Dems and discussed what priorities were and, along with the Green Party, agreed to work together to elect Sarah Olney. This is the sort of politics I want to be involved in – on where people can put their egos aside and work together for the best solution.
Anyway, a bit of a ramble but just wanted to get some of these thoughts down while still fresh in my head. Not a lot of blogging now as I’m relatively busy but shall try and get something coherent put together before 2017 hits!

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