We do not live in a culture of equality

Next month I am delighted that I will be speaking on the platform at the Labour Women’s Network Political Day.

Labour Women’s Network are a superb organisation. They work tirelessly to promote and support women candidates at every level of our party. They are a huge part of the reason Labour looks as diverse as it does, and why our gender representation is so far ahead of other major parties. They are a continuing part of the solution to the crisis of representation of women in political life.

All the speakers thus far announced to the Conference are women. The panel will be an all-women panel. This is not a platform of second rate wannabes cobbled together following rules that have hobbled reasonableness and hampered the ability of the organisers to get the best. This is (with the possible exception of yours truly) a platform bursting with expertise, experience, rigour and with life experiences. These are real experts in campaigning, in strategy and in engaging with the public over important and essential issues to all the electorate. All are welcome to attend to hear what they have to say. I hope that the audience will have many men interested to hear what these great speakers have to say about the future of the party. Some will talk from a woman’s perspective, some will not – all will have messages that will be vital to the path the Party must take towards success in 2015.

This panel is the final nail in the coffin of the lie that you cannot get a decent political panel together that doesn’t include at least, at the very least, one woman. We’re out there in strength. This list should be a starting place for anyone seeking to build an interesting panel on electoral and political strategy before next year’s conference season. It is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to female expertise.

Some have criticised me for hypocrisy for supporting an all-women panel and railing so strongly against all-male panels. To do so, is to deny the male-dominated patriarchy in which we live. Attempts at equality have stalled and women like myself feel less welcomed as part of the political conversation than we have for quite some time. The macho political culture is becoming overwhelming, and the added free-for-all of internet abuse makes the public square a very difficult place to be a woman.

We do not live in a culture of equality. To achieve equality, therefore, the balance must be loaded in favour of women until equilibrium is achieved. It really is as simple and straightforward as that. All Women Shortlists, All-women panels, Women’s conference  and the Labour Women’s Network are excellent tools to be employed towards achieving an end that makes their use obsolete.

But we ain’t there yet. To be considered strong, brave and a true leader, one must bear the hallmarks of a man. Apologies to Mark, who I realise was just employing a phrase used by Tony Blair to describe Alastair Campbell, but last week saw a minor furore on here over the use of the phrase “Huge Clunking Balls” to describe courage. It was questioned as sexist, then the questioning was ridiculed as women are also described as “having balls”. Now personally, I don’t see what’s so brave, strong and true about carrying your testes around on the outside, whatever noise they make. Frankly, I think the greatest physical challenge any human voluntarily goes through is giving birth. But we never get told a person showing courage and strength as having a Great, Clunking Birth Canal. Though I do intend to try and popularise this now. It might be fun to see if we can get it to catch on – join me!

But until we live in a world where the rhetoric is just as likely to favour a woman as a man, positive gender discrimination has its part to play in bringing equality to our world. Until we live in a place where Prime Ministers aren’t ridiculed for being women or ridicule the women around them, this kind of event is essential to making sure the Party is attracting and utilising the very best talent we have on offer; Talent like that on display at the conference on 17th November. I do hope to see you all there.

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