Whose Rights are they Anyway?

So this week the Women’s Equality Party announced itself to the world…  As the saying goes, a week can be a long time in politics and given that I’ve so recently pondered on the possibility of a feminist party, I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing some thoughts about the comedian who will possibly be in charge of the (probably not pink) election bus in 5 years time….

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Although I haven’t spent much time thinking about it until this week, I’ve always imagined that Sandi Tokvig’s political views probably aren’t a million miles from my own.  The one thing that I definitely do know about her is that she is a very intelligent and funny woman who doesn’t appear particularly shy about participating in the occasional bout of self-deprecation.

These qualities alone would make Sandi a welcome addition to the political arena and the fact that the cult of celebrity gives her something of a fast track to the public’s attention doesn’t do any harm either.  Indeed this puts her in an excellent position to lobby for causes close to her heart without having to jump head first into the depressingly murky dirty waters that this countries’ politicians seem perfectly happy to swim in every day, without ever really getting to the heart of the matter.

I imagine that in a different time and a different place, I’d likely consider voting for Toksvig.  That said, for hopefully painfully obvious reasons, I won’t be voting for any of her sisters in 2020 and it seems extremely unlikely that I will be able to fully support whatever proposals are presented in their manifesto.

Which all in all, makes her announcement that she is leaving radio 4 to lead a women’s political party so very disappointing for so very many reasons.

I have a lot of love for Sandi and don’t doubt she will deliver a more dignified performance batting for the girls team than Mike Buchanan has done for the boys.  So whilst I respect her right to fight for the right to have more sisters on  the ballot ticket, I’m left wondering wether her recent career change has been informed by naivety, ego, ignorance, bias or more simply by a slightly cynical attempt to gain a brighter spotlight and ultimately a bigger audience for her next tour or book or media project etc…

Personally, I suspect that Sandi’s heart is entirely and genuinely committed to the cause but it was still cringeworthy to read her tweet advising that requests to discuss her latest career move should go via the artist manger she shares with such noticeable talents as Rufus Hound, Donna Air and Tony Blackburn.

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Toksvig has previously been a very public supporter of the Liberal Democrats, she has been the warm up act for the leader at party conferences and was apparently even once considered as a prospective candidate for a very winnable seat in Cambridge.

For whatever reason that didn’t work out and so instead Sandi stayed seated smugly sniping from the sidelines as chair of Radio 4’s long running and popular news quiz.  A strategy which she appears content to maintain for the foreseeable future.

Sandi’s sisters party will apparently push for equal representation in politics from the safe single issue sidelines, as apposed to actually getting properly in the game and potentially plugging some of the representation gap they claim to be so concerned about.

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Women’s Equality Party: A fantastic group of women (and indeed men)

In an era when mainstream parties are bending over backwards and even breaking the rules to get women into mainstream politics, the Women’s Equality Party enter stage left (and right and centre) to boldly announce that ‘they will not stop attracting votes from the other political parties until they embrace and adopt their preferred vision of ‘equality”.

I’d like to think that the Equality Party’s ‘plans to urge an education system that creates opportunities for all girls and boys’ will involve some mothers getting their fingers out to draw some much needed focus on why the current education system is failing boys so very, very badly at every single level but I suspect the priority will be on keeping the focus firmly on comparatively less dramatic issues like ensuring that girls are fully informed about the attractive career options in STEM industries, should they choose to pursue them.

I’d like to think that their plan to push for equal representation in business will involve positive action steps to encourage more women to compete in extremely competitive business environments but I suspect that they will mostly call for preferential treatment and quotas for the women who already do.

Most of all, I’d like to think that, unlike Laura Bates, they won’t just acknowledge disadvantage experienced by men when it suits their preferred privileged perception of patriarchy.  I’d like to think these things because I’d like to think that Sandi Toksvig was familiar with the Apex fallacy and smart enough to understand that the real pay gap just keeps getting bigger and bigger while the boys and girls keep distracting each other.

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Growth in Income Inequality Since Introduction of ‘Equal Pay’ Legislation

I appreciate that single issue politics can be an effective way of lobbying.  I even have some sympathy for Toksvig’s apparent disillusionment with mainstream party politics but I also believe that the other comedian in this week’s news (Russell Brand) has a much stronger handle on why 9 million women (and indeed 7 million men) in this country decide not to vote.

The more people who refuse to engage in rolling the loaded ‘democratic’ dice every 5 years, the sooner we might actually achieve some real, lasting change.

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Hopefully Brand’s vision of a bloodless revolution is realistic and us blokes won’t be left to do all the heavy lifting if the shit ever does seriously hit the fan but I think it is worthwhile pointing out that the last time a woman’s party managed to get their feet under a proper political table in this country, they only managed to sneak in via the back door because Tony Blair decided to pragmatically pander to men with guns but no political mandate from women voters (or indeed men).

Personally, I don’t doubt that Sandi Toksvig has the potential to be a positive force for positive change in British Politics but then again, I suspect that the single most significant factor stopping her from standing for public office is Sandi Toksvig herself.

 Women are certainly not equal. How is it that we still have a pay gap? What is it, 45 years since the Equal Pay Act? On average for part-time work, women are paid 35% less than men. How is that possible? Saudi Toksvig – Part-time Politician 2015

She’s very good at taking the piss and I’m assume she gets well paid for her talent but if she thinks that women are the only sex that have unfinished aspirations of ‘equality’ then she really needs to get out more.

For part-time employees, the higher rate of pay for women than men results in a ‘negative’ gender pay gap.  It has remained relatively stable in recent years, standing at 5.5% in April 2014.  ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2014

I’m happy to stand corrected but I’m guessing that the news quiz has an overrepresentation of blokes in the audience (whatever that actually means), I’m one and I’ll certainly miss her but before I get all maudlin, let’s finish this post on a positive note with a reminder of the gold standard in exploiting your cult of celebrity for the greater good…

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Gender Mereology

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