LabourList is drowned out by ego-stroking testosterone – It’s time for a virtual feminist party

March 6, 2009 11:54 am

By Rowenna DavisIWD

LabourList Guest Editor

According to the UN, the average woman speaks 20,000 words a day whilst the average guy speaks just 7,000. Yet when it comes to political conversations online, women are still massively under-represented.

The political blogosphere is increasingly coming to mirror the gung ho boys club that is the House of Commons. Online and off, proper debate is being drowned out by testosterone, ego stroking and petit point scoring. If women are to advance gender equality, they need to start reclaiming the political web space. Now.

To date, the laddish LabourListers – with their emphasis on donuts, techie banter and zero female employees – haven’t really helped the problem. But to their credit, they have invited me to be Guest Editor to help balance the office’s oestrogen- testosterone ratio for one day of the year, next Monday – to celebrate International Women’s Day.

So on Monday, LabourList will be a man-free zone, and women will be taking over the political space.

If you ask me, they’ve let “woman trouble” in through the virtual front door.

Once inside, I’ll be asking a bunch of sassy intelligent women from all ends of the political spectrum to speak their minds on exactly what Labour should do (and stop doing) to advance gender equality in the UK. We’re going to have a virtual feminist party – hosted by the men at LabourList – and everyone’s invited. When we’re done, we’ll leave them to pick up the pieces.

Heading up the guest list will be Fiona Millar talking about Thatcher’s legacy on women in politics and Harriet Harman on how to stop “old boys networks” from “profiting from discretionary bonus and pension systems”. MEP Mary Honeyball and her assistant Holly Sutton will be arguing (on opposite sides!?) about whether 50:50 representation is a good thing, whilst Jessica Asato has a surprise for us.

Outside of the mainstream Labour oestrogen pool we’ll be hearing from the likes of maverick feminist blogger Penny Red on popular sexism, and feminist and community activist Anne-Marie O’Reilly on how Labour’s new Welfare Bill discriminates against single mothers.

The proliferation of gender inequality in the UK means that these guest bloggers will have a lot to talk about. The traditional pay gap is still going strong at 17%, rising to 40% in the city. Just one in ten directors of FTSE 100 companies are women, and less than 20% of all MPs are female. Meanwhile recent research since the financial crisis suggests that 40% of women – all too often at the bottom of the economic pile – are worrying about how to pay the bills as compared to just 27% of men.

These kinds of figures are unacceptable, and we need to get talking about them. So please – men, women, those who prefer to leave their gender unspecified – spare us some of your 7,000 or 20,000 words a day, and join the debate.

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