Archive | March, 2013

U.N.I.T.Y “who you callin’ a bitch?”

5 Mar

So, here are my thoughts on being a woman entering local politics and how I want to be treated, and how I want to behave…mostly. It’s also peppered with my thoughts on how women get treated who want to, whisper, run this town.  I am a feminist. This is what it means to me.

How I want to behave as a local politician:

1. I am sister first, politician second. There is no place for sexist ‘putting her in her place’ remarks in the democracy I want. I don’t care if I oppose her politics, I respect her position and know that it was often more difficult for her to find her voice. I have heard local female activists sniggering over comments men make about the women in their own party. It’s wrong. It’s never right. Stamp it out. Take active responsibility within your own groups and party for making this happen.

2. Play the issues not the person. The people involved in local politics are hardworking, often have a caring responsibility, this is more likely to be the case for women remember, so when they are making the time to represent their communities when you throw your verbal ‘sticks and stones’ this person may have been up all night with a baby or elderly relative. They never claimed to be an expert, or a diplomat, they care about making positive change for their community. When you juggle work, caring for family and politics it is hard not to be ground down by the personal. But don’t be ground down, and don’t toughen up. Just be.

3. In confrontation, frequently the language is gender related too. Implying a ‘shrew’ that needs to be tamed, an irrational hormone ridden harpy, or a terrifying matriarch when they refuse to lie down. I say to my fellow women activists of all parties, don’t change to fit in either as ‘pet’ and a darling or back down from your ground when you are accused of being ‘hard’. Or as the Queen Latifah puts it “Stop dropping so low”. Its a challenge, because I tell myself I must toughen up. I spent an evening in tears because someone I respect, but often disagree with, challenged not my point but my right to make it. I am going to stop to telling myself to toughen up and so should you.

4. We need to reject the culture and trappings of political confrontation. It wasn’t designed by us. It wasn’t designed by the men who inhabit the space today. But in this case, the figures rather than the hips, don’t lie. We are half the population and we inhabit very little political space. We are put off by confrontation, not because we can’t do it. BELIEVE – reference the excellent Cllr Mears and her ability to crush in this way. But because we don’t see the point of confrontation. How does it illuminate an issue? How does it engage and build consensus with our local communities?

Consensus is important and confrontation is the enemy of moving forward. Confrontation is the friend of the status quo and the bread chucking, pass the port and let the officers really decided what is good for communities. It is possible through local government in a way that would be far more difficult to achieve in Westminster.

5. So when you see it, call it. No party tribalism. “Who you callin’ a bitch?”

So, thanks to Queen Latifah and the excellent elected representatives of all parties in Brighton and Hove who make me proud to call them sister…even when they renounce feminism *sigh*. I hope I can soon join you in working towards a better democracy and a better city.

UNITY for Women’s Day – Friday 8th March

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