Dear Women’s Equality Party,
I stayed away from the WEP while it was asking for engagement because frankly I am over subscribed on time as it is. I have a part time job, a home, two children, a blog, a website to build and mental health to look after. There are always two or three of these falling by the wayside as it is. I figured if you started saying things that resonated with me I’d pay more attention but how utterly disappointing it was to read about the policies put forth by the WEP yesterday when I read the post by The Politics of Mothering‘s Vanessa Olorenshaw. I did hold out a little hope you could be more than this. To be honest though, I’m not at all surprised. You seem to totally embody the “mainstream feminism” that I began this blog to counter, in the process finding the many women who will absolutely hate some of your policies as much as I do.
To hear you want universal nursery care for children from nine months old breaks my heart. Your insistence that women be equally represented in government and business, again, is not surprising but misses the mark completely. I wrote about this just a couple weeks ago in fact and I maintain that women in these positions do not represent all women, not even close. They only represent themselves.
What about those women who want to be with their children? How are you proposing to bring more equality to them? You sit in your little high achieving, middle class bubble and don’t know anyone who wants such a thing do you? Britain has a productivity crisis; only a third of employees are even engaged with their work. Those of you excited about your careers and energised to reach your potential are a privileged few. Most people, men and women, go to work in order to have a roof over our heads and food to eat.
I bet you don’t know anyone who wants out of her crap job so she can make a bigger difference in her kids life. And lets face it, being home with her kids will make a bigger difference to the world than she working a minimum wage job while the 18 year old’s can’t find one. Youth unemployment is at 14.4% Meanwhile one study found that 88% of mothers who work full time would rather work part time or stay at home. And if you doubt that one, another found that two thirds of dads thought they should be able to spend more time at home too.
And yet, the best you could come up with to achieve equality is to get kids in day care as early as possible so women could work. A six week paternity leave would indeed be an excellent start to help dads bond with their children. But if at nine months old both parents are working full time who benefits? That’s right, again, just those sneaky employers and one percenters. There’s a lot of research that shows kids are better off at home with primary caretakers until they are three years old. You can get angry and say that it’s not fair because it doesn’t fit your agenda or you can deal with it appropriately. You could propose parents receive a stipend after the nine months of parental leave that could be used for childcare or for a parent to care for the child at home. This would mean parents could choose a nanny if they want which is often better for small children as they stand in as a close primary caretaker rather than being forgotten about in a large daycare setting. It could also mean that they could choose to both work part time and share care, which would be very good for everyone.
You could go even further and insist that employers must show sufficient cause to reject part time work requests. Studies show that many women are happiest when they work part time, but employers are just not interested in anyone who can’t give them their entire body and soul. It’s almost impossible to forge a career on part time hours. And how ridiculous is that? Am I a donkey or a human being with valuable skills? If I have valuable skills why is it the number of hours I’m willing to give that determines my value to an employer? Many women find that they are not taken seriously as employees once they go part time, if they even bothered asking. Many don’t because they know better than to even ask.
In that same vein, it is my strong, considered opinion that the most effective policy we could put in place to achieve equality is not to get more women working more hours but to get more men working fewer hours so they can contribute at home.
If employers had to show strong evidence that it would be impossible for a role to be done by two part time or job sharing employees, more men and women could work part time. Those in a family partnership would be able to share caring and domestic duties and still pursue a career. Personally I’d like to go one step further and actually cap working hours for everyone. There aren’t enough jobs and there never will be again so I think it’s prudent for a number of reasons beyond equality but probably not yet politically feasible. Although, if no one brings it up, it will never find it’s way to feasibility will it?
Ultimately I’d like to see us stop perpetuating this myth that any of us can “have it all.” Men have never had it all. They had crap relationships and have always wished on their death beds they didn’t work so much. Women can’t have it all by just trying to join their world. We can’t ignore the billions of hours of domestic work that needs to get done. We can’t continue to pretend that children don’t need their parents. Research continues to show that they do much better with loving parents available. Reputable dog breeders and rescues won’t even give puppies to full time workers. I’m not saying that we should vilify any family that chooses for both parents to work full time if that’s what they need to do for their own personal reasons. I am saying that we should stop pushing that agenda on families as the ideal, because it’s not and every family should be able to choose what’s optimal.
How about you propose to fix the school system and the fact that it’s run counter to the academic evidence? This is why I won’t reach my “potential.” I won’t be returning to a job, probably ever, because I plan to home school my children, because the school system at present is toxic and damaging to children. I refuse to let it damage mine, even at the expense of my potential.
How about evidence based policy by the way? I don’t see much in the way of an attempt to put forth evidence based policy, more opinion based policy. We have enough opinion based policy that completely ignores evidence in the parties we already have, thank you very much.
How about a real living wage as opposed to the one put forth by the conservatives? In what way are you standing up for low wage working women? You want to see women in power, but what about those without that potential? In what way do you propose to help them achieve equality? I don’t see them present very far in your ideas. That’s not a new story. White, middle class feminism has been forgetting about them forever.
How about being really radical and backing a Universal Basic Income?
Drunk on privilege and the promise of power, you have banded together to further exclude those who are not like you. When you ignore such a large proportion of women, you are no longer in the fight for women’s equality, you are just looking to join the oppressors.
Parents are already spending less time with their children because they are spending more time at work. Schools are demanding more from our children at a cost to their mental health. And what do we have to offer them? Less opportunity, a higher cost of living and little chance of social mobility. As a party of equality you should be concerned for the future. Everyone’s future. Instead you seem intent on simply grabbing power for yourself and your mates. You may as well be David Cameron.
No thanks, I’ll stick with Jeremy Corbyn. At least he knows what equality might look like.
a renegade feminist