The ‘Donald Trump’ effect

Ok, deep breath, I’m going there. Let’s talk about Donald fucking Trump.

I’ve resisted talking about him so far because, to be perfectly honest, for a feminist blog he feels like low hanging fruit as subject matter. Got nothing to say? Talk about Trump – job done.

But by not having mentioned him on this platform so far, I’m starting to feel he is conspicuous by his absence. After all, this blog is all about the issues that we face as feminists in today’s world. And he’s a big fucking issue. No doubt about that.

So here we go. Who knows where to start? It’s all too upsetting to contemplate. The man seems almost untouchable. He runs an antagonistic, illogical, hate driven campaign. And he wins. He dismisses his recorded admission of sexual assault/sexual harassment of women as ‘locker room banter’ and Teresa May holds hands with him and offers a state visit. He effectively seeks to brand all muslims as terrorists and implements hugely racist policies and 10 Downing Street shrugs, says the state visit invitation still stands and *silently* prays that the US will still agree to a trade deal with the UK because, you know, Brexit. (Don’t get me started on that one…).

And now, for the crappy cherry on top of the shitty cake, he has retweeted videos posted by Britain First. Which is almost beyond comprehension. Let me repeat, the President of the United States has retweeted and effectively endorsed a dangerous hate group. As Brendan Cox (Jo Cox’s widow) tweeted, he may as well have retweeted something from the KKK.

And the man still stands! How is this possible?? Is he really holding the same position that was so recently held by Barak Obama. It doesn’t seem real.

Donald Trump represents (for so many many reasons) a huge danger to our society and not least for what I will probably now forever call, the ‘Donald Trump’ effect. Which is, that regardless of what behaviour we encounter that initially seems utterly abhorrent and completely unacceptable, we seem to collectively get used to the status quo very very quickly. Dangerously quickly. And I can’t think of anyone in modern history who has taken advantage of this fact more successfully than Donald Trump.

Think about it for a second. When he first sought to effectively ban muslims from entering the US, there were huge protests. Both here and in the US. And yes, that policy was legally quashed. However, if he was successful in reinstating it via another means now, do you think there would be the same level of public outrage? Or would there instead be a quieter, more resigned and upset acceptance that this is simply what this awful man was always going to do? It’s Trump, after all. It’s just what he does. I’m inclined to think the latter I’m afraid. And despite Hollywood stars and powerful men in all industries falling beneath the mighty wheels of #metoo, the most powerful man in America simply dismisses his accusers as liars and marches on, unscathed.

He just keeps insisting on setting the bar lower and lower and every time his behaviour sinks to a new low, the previous, marginally less repulsive behaviour, seems to almost become accepted simply by virtue of being ‘not quite as awful’.

And that’s a dangerous cycle. And one we must remain aware of. We should never simply accept the status quo without question or challenge. After all, the status quo originated somewhere. We should not lose perspective on anything that Donald Trump does simply because we are judging him by the standards he set. Judge him by the standards of his predecessors in the role and you will never lose sight of how truly awful this dangerous, hate filled, emotionally unstable man is.

And, to bring it back to the point of this blog, we should never lose sight of what we are fighting for as feminists in this day and age. Simply because the status quo is that men hold more power than women, this does not make it right. And if you were ever unsure how important this fight currently is, look towards the most powerful leader in the free world and ask yourself how he got there? Think about who voted for him. And ask yourself whether you really want the world to be run by men like him in the future?

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Feminism – are we winning?

I know haven’t posted here for a little while – sorry about that. It hasn’t been because there hasn’t been anything to write about on the feminism front – there’s always something to write about – but life simply got a little too much there for a minute. Work was totally crazy, I wasn’t seeing my daughter much at all (because work was crazy) and everything felt out of balance. I was just about hanging on by a thread. Surviving, not living, if you want to get deep about it. It’s times like this when I really feel how completely bloody ridiculous it is when people talk about ‘Having It All’. If Having It All means simply having a job and a family (like, you know, men have had for decades?) then yeah, sure, I have it all. But a) is that really something that is so extraordinary in this day and age? and b) there is a hell of a lot of sacrifice involved in Having It All as far as I can tell, so I’m not quite sure what the ‘All’ actually is? Anyway, enough moaning. My point was simply that I took a much much needed break and spent some time hanging out with my kiddo, which was awesome. And I gave myself permission to sit in bed and watch a lot of box sets while she napped. Bliss.Specifically the show I watched was Mad Men. Yeah I know, I know – I’m late to the party on this one but I don’t get a lot of TV time so cut me some slack. Anyway, as I’m sure you already know, it is an excellent show and I’m throughly enjoying it. What I’m not enjoying so much (although I can’t look away) is the rampant, blatant and frankly shocking level of sexism that was apparently prevalent in 1960s America. Now Mad Men is not a documentary by any means but I’ve read enough of the reviews now to be satisfied that they are not wildly off the mark with how they are presenting sexism on the show. It’s quite unbelievable. Yes, women are in the workplace and yes, if they fight like hell they might rise above the level of secretary, but they are never ever treated as equal. Not even close. They are second class citizens and nearly every interaction between the characters reinforces that fact. I’ve no reason to believe that things were any better in the UK at the time and it made me think: We’ve come a long long way in a relatively short time. Now, before you start, you really do not have to tell me that we still have a long way to go. And that attitudes like those portrayed on Mad Men were never ok. I’m not making apologies for anyone on the basis that ‘it was a different time’. Human decency is human decency, regardless of what era you are in. But still. In the constant uphill battle that the fight for equality can feel like, I think sometimes you need to look back and see what has been achieved. I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that significant success in equality for women is unlikely to be achieved in my lifetime. Progress is slooooooooooow. But it is still progress. And we have to believe that with every new generation positive change will happen and we will get there in the end. Eventually.

#OutofOffice

So I had another post all lined up for today but, if nothing else, I like to be topical so I’m going to talk about Equal Pay instead. 

Today formally marks Equal Pay Day.  A dubious holiday at best.  There’s no day off for it or anything.  Although there should be.  In fact, for women in the work place, it should mark the end of their working year. Because Equal Pay Day marks the point at which women will effectively work for nothing for the remainder of the year compared to men, due to the pay gap in this country. 

I’ve written about the salary pay gap before (see here) and how massively unfair it is that women still get paid less than men for the same job.   And, indeed, paid less altogether overall. 

Now, being the newly addicted twitterer that I am (tweeter? twit-head?) there has, unsurprisingly, been a load of people (mostly, but not all, men) calling this out as nonsense.  It’s not an equality issue, I’m reliably informed.  It’s a choice.  Yes, yes – listen to me for a sec, won’t you?  Women are choosing to be paid less than men.  That’s the problem here.  They choose lower paid jobs with shorter hours.  Equality was actually an issue that was resolved YEARS ago.  There’s laws and everything now, don’t you know?  Silly feminists.  Back in your box. 

Errrr….

I don’t have the time or energy here to go into everything that’s wrong with this statement.  But suffice to say, I’m giving that sentiment a severely raised cynical eyebrow from over here.  Women choose to be paid less?  They want that?  Ok, suuuuure they do.  Uh huh. (*back away slowly from the insane person*)

What I think might actually be happening here is that women are forced into lower paid jobs with reduced hours because the system in this country places the burden of childcare, and care in general, upon their shoulders and, if they and their partner choose to have children, even if they want/have to go back to work, the cost of childcare is so prohibitively expensive (the most expensive in the world!) that they simply can’t afford to go back to work full time.  And if they did, then chances are they would still get paid less than men for doing the same job (see the BBC and ITV as shining examples of that bullshit).  So it makes more financial sense in a struggling family for the man to work full time and the woman to cut her hours to reduce the crippling cost of childcare.  

Now, I appreciate that this a very basic overview of the problem.  It’s obviously a lot more nuanced than that, with a number of factors coming into play.  But in short, the end result remains the same.  Women of the UK.  Collectively we work for free for the remainder of the year.  Let us rejoice.  

Or, instead you might want to join the campaign of the Women’s Equality Party to switch on your Out of Office.  Suggested wording is below.  

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I won’t be doing this.  Simply because I have a boss who I think would not be best pleased and frankly I need my job to, you know, cover the crippling cost of childcare and pay my mortgage.  

So if you can’t join in this time, it’s ok.  No judgement from over here.  But maybe start a conversation about this with someone.  Let it light a fire in you to fight this situation in any way you can.  Because fight we must people.  The gender pay gap is getting worse, not better (based on actual proper data by people who know what they’re talking about – I.e. not twitter).

“SUBJECT LINE: Out of Office. For the rest of the year. 

Not really, I’m just making a point.
Today is effectively the last day women in the UK are paid to work. Because of the gender pay gap the average woman is working for free until the end of the year.  
So, if women aren’t getting paid, why should they work?
That’s why I’ve switched on my Out Of Office.
This is to raise awareness of the pay gap, which on average is 18.4% and for some women it’s even worse.
If like me, and the Women’s Equality Party, you think it’s time something changed, you can join in by copying this message and switching on your Out of Office too.
This Equal Pay Day, it’s time to get rid of the pay gap.
#OutOfOffice @WEP_UK”

Is being militant a good thing? 

So further to my last post about labels (see here), what do you think about trying this label on for size?: 

“Militant”. 

I only ask because this is a label that has recently been applied to me and I have some mixed feelings about this, to say the least.  

To give you some context, I have been known, on occasion, to witter on about some feminist topic or other with people I know from work.  And it’s resulted in some really interesting debates.  In particular with one person who, interestingly, labels himself as a ‘modern, liberal man’.  

Now this label was actually something that I was initially prepared to accept at face value.  If you ask him if he believes in feminism and female equality (yeah, yeah, I know – I must be a barrel of laughs to work with) he will vehemently agree that he does.  

However, the fact that I regularly end up in (good-humoured) disagreements with this gentleman about various feminists topics might suggest to you that, when you drill down into it a bit, he’s perhaps not as liberal as he might like to believe he is.  He has some quite traditional views about some things and he quickly got himself into some hot water in the office when he refused my offer of my seat (he was standing, I was sitting) on the basis that I was a woman and women are weaker.   Given that he was in a room where the women considerably outnumbered the men at the time, he probably could have chosen a better audience for that one!  

Anyway, that’s all background to the fact that he recently light-heartedly queried how any poor bloke could win with me when I was always so ‘militant’.  Ouch.  

Firstly, can I ask – does ‘militant’ get applied to anybody other than feminists?  The two seem to go hand in hand.  And not in a good way.  “Feminist” = just about tolerable.  “Militant feminist” = abomination to be avoided at all costs.   So I don’t think it’s a compliment… 

However, glass half full and all that, at least it means I’m talking about the issues.  I mean, you can’t be labelled militant if you’re just sat in the corner keeping all your fabulous feminist thoughts to yourself, can you?  So it’s a start. 

But I do think there is a cautionary tale here that’s worth noting.  I truly truly believe in the importance of speaking out about feminism and the need for equality.   Spread the message by all means.  You must.  But be careful how that message comes across.  Being slapped with the label ‘militant’ so quickly has been a really important lesson for me to learn.   Because it’s a way for people to write you off.  

“Oh don’t listen to her.  She’s always going on about this stuff.  She’s totally militant about it.”  It’s dismissive and it gives people a reason not to listen.  And then you’ve lost the fight and you may as well shout into the abyss for all the good it’s going to do.  

No. The message needs to be got across but it also needs to be non-aggressive.  Assertive yes, aggressive no.  It’s not about attacking people’s belief systems – it has to be about teaching.  In a positive way. So that people WANT to listen and change. 

So that is what I, as a recently diagnosed ‘Militant Feminist’ am trying to learn to do.  I’ll let you know how I get on!  I don’t know if ‘Passive Feminist’ is really a label that works for me either, but presumably there’s a label somewhere in the middle that will fit just right…  

I’m the Goldilocks of feminism! 

It’s all about the labels, baby

Oh don’t we know the power of a good label.  It’s what the multi-billion dollar fashion industry has been built upon – our love of labels and what they say about you.  If you stop and think about it for a moment, I bet there are a whole number of labels that you use to define who you are.  

One of the labels which I think is most controversial is that of ‘feminist’.  For some reason, at some point, it gained hugely negative connotations.  Images of fiercely aggressive and argumentative women were called to mind and it was easy to then write them all off as a bunch of looneys, making a big fuss about nothing.   

But I think times are changing on that front.   Kim Kardashian in 2016 said she supported women’s rights but would not label herself a ‘feminist’.   However, come August 2017, suddenly she’s back on the feminist wagon.   Hooray!  Welcome Kim! 

Now I know Kim Kardashian is perhaps not the feminist icon we’ve been waiting our whole lives for but she is certainly a handy thermometer for checking the temperature out there in the world of popular culture.   You see it’s only when public figures, pop stars and other individuals that young women consider to be role models start unashamedly using the label of ‘feminist’ that it will become more socially acceptable to use the phrase and then more people will be prepared to speak out. So it’s really really important. 

I struggled with the label myself, to be honest.  As I said, it has some negative connotations.  I spent quite a long time trying to think if there was any other word that properly described how I felt about the state of things.  Could I ‘re-brand’ feminism so to speak?  I came up with a big fat no.  There is no re-branding to be had.  It may need something of an image overhaul but the conclusion I came to is that, actually, ‘feminist’ is not a label at all.  It’s a state of being.  You kinda are one or you are not, and you don’t really have a choice in that! 

So when Kim Kardashian in 2016 said that she believed in women and women’s rights, but she wasn’t a feminist?  Well, sorry girlfriend but… you are!   If you believe in equality for women; if you are not ok with being paid less than men just because you are a woman; if you believe you have the right to work and not be sexually harassed in your workplace (or at all!) and you believe more should be done to end violence against women?  Then you are a feminist.  Whether you like it or not.  

Sorry ’bout that.  I don’t make the rules! 

March of the mummies (part 2)


Well that made for a different day.  Yesterday bubs and I talked it over and decided enough was enough.  It was time to take some action and attend March of the Mummies.  I jest of course – bubs can’t talk.  But I could tell she was totally on board with the idea of attending her first march.  So march we did. 

I’ve written about the aims of the march before (see here). From Trafalger Square to Parliament Square, we marched with hundreds of other mothers and fathers.  And marched in spirit with all of the other parents who were marching in other cities or couldn’t attend the march at all because they were, you know, working.  

The March of the Mummies first stopped outside Downing Street before continuing onto the Houses of Parliament.  Once there, we heard speeches from Caroline Lucas (Green Party), Sophie Walker (Women’s Equality Party) and the gorgeous Anna Whitehouse (@mother_pukka), amongst many others.  One of the most inspirational speeches came from Sonia who recently took the Department of Work and Pensions to the Employment Tribunal and won her case for maternity discrimination!  If the bloody government can’t get it right, where does that leave everyone else? 

It was a brilliant day.  So so much thanks to Joeli Brearley from Pregnant then Screwed for doing such an amazing job organising the march.   We desperately need affirmative action like this to get the message heard.  

And for those who have been trolling on twitter about mothers trying sideline men (*insert eye roll here*) I have listed the demands the March of the Mummies has asked to be met, so that you can inform yourselves that this is about rights for ALL parents.  Not just mothers. 

Demands of March of the Mummies:

1.  Increase the time limit to raise a tribunal   claim from 3 months to (at least) 6 months.

2.  Require companies to report on how many flexible working requests are made and how many are granted. 

3.  Give both parents access to 6 weeks parental leave paid at 90% of salary.

4. Give the self-employed access to statutory shared parental pay. 

5. Subsidise childcare from 6 months old, rather than 3 years old. 


Update: I’ve just realised, in a nice synergy, that yesterday also coincided with the anniversary of my return to work from maternity leave.  Working mothers for the win!

Pay the papas please

Another day, another work event.  Last night I was at a function where, yet again, I was one of only a handful of women in the room.  The contrast was made even more stark by the fact that I was also easily one of the youngest people there by a solid ten years.  As described by a colleague, the demographic was very much, “Male, pale and stale.”  Tough crowd. 

Rocking up to a table to speak with one of the few individuals who looked like retirement was still a distant dream rather than an imminent reality, we quickly got talking about the benefits of working in our respective workplaces (yes, conversations at these events really are that dull I’m afraid.)  And at some point in the middle of listing exactly why his workplace was better than mine, he mentioned that he was extremely lucky as he had been given 3 weeks paid paternity leave by his employer. 

“I don’t actually think that’s lucky.  I think that’s rubbish,” was my response.  I can always be counted on to demonstrate diplomacy in the most sensitive of situations, as you can see.  I did then go on to say that my issue with what he had described was not with his employer but in fact with the system as set up by government.

You see legally men are only entitled to two weeks paid paternity leave at either £140 a week or 90% their weekly pay – whichever is lower!  Ouch.  I remember being utterly horrified by this when I first heard about it.  And in light of this, it was indeed generous for his employer to grant him 3 weeks full paid leave instead.  They didn’t have to.  

However, women are legally entitled to 6 weeks paid maternity leave at 90% their full pay and then paid statutory maternity pay for a full 9 months if they want it.  And if anyone can tell me how that’s fair between both parties then I would love to hear it.  Seriously.  Am I missing something? 

Now this is a feminist blog.  How, you might ask, is it detrimental to women that in this rare circumstance they actually appear to be gaining a significant advantage over men?  How is that a feminist issue?  Well, dear reader, let me explain. 

Firstly, being a feminist does not, in my opinion, suddenly mean that I am blind to the inequality of others and that I don’t care.  My belief in fairness and equality is why I’m a feminist in the first place.  So yeah, I think the men are getting screwed over massively here and I don’t think it’s right.  And I don’t think it assists the feminist cause to pretend to be blind to this issue.  Unfair is unfair, whichever side is losing out.  I’m sure there’s loads of dads out there who would love a bit more time with their new baby but simply can’t afford to take it.  

Secondly, by setting up a system whereby it is inherently understood that women will be taking longer off work than men when they have children, it sets up an expectation from the outset that the women are going to be the primary care givers.  Which is crap.  In all senses of the word.   Yes, there are things that only I can give my baby.  Life (for starters) and breastmilk.  That’s it.  Everything else, Daddy can do just as well!  

Yet the system sets up an expectation that mothers are the primary care givers, and it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Women take longer out of work and feel guilty when they go back because they are ‘supposed’ to be raising their child.  That’s what ‘good’ mothers do.  

Now maybe not everyone feels that way.  But I know it’s not just me that does.  And I actually do believe that I’m a better person for continuing to work, and that I’m doing my best by bubs and my family.  It’s the right decision for me and her.  Still doesn’t make it easy though. 

So what can be done?  Well, for starters there’s a social media campaign called #paythepapasplease.  Upload a photo of dads going about their daddy business and include that hashtag.  Raise awareness.  The aim of the campaign is simple – give every man 6 weeks paternity pay at 90% his salary too.  Just like women.  I mean, it’s not perfect.  It won’t entirely fix what is, in my view, a pretty broken system.  But it would be a bloody good start.  

#paythepapasplease