This month we have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the passing of an Act of Parliament giving women over 30 the right to vote. This most welcome of milestones called to mind the very day I first gave any real consideration to the topic of women’s rights.
It was summer 1979. Margaret Thatcher had been Prime Minister barely a month. As an organising member of the school debating society a discussion around the topic of the first British female Prime Minister ever was an obvious choice. First item on the agenda therefore ‘The question to be then debated’ the suggestion of ‘Is Margaret Thatcher a good advert for women? was quickly shot down. The attributes of an individual woman considered in the context of advertisements was demeaning. Margaret Thatcher was in politics not product sales. The next suggestion ‘Is Margaret Thatcher a triumph for feminism? was more promising until the ensuing discussion revealed to us that we were unclear as to what ‘feminism’ actually meant. In those pre-internet days the meeting was disbanded with agreement to reconvene after there had been an opportunity to visit a public library to research the point. Reading the voluminous material on this topic just published I note there still remains confusion as to the true meaning of the word. Feminism is simply the belief in social economic and political equality between the sexes. Who in 2018 does not believe in that or if they do not would dare to say so in public? In some pieces there is suggestion that true feminism includes an element of ‘activism’ for the cause and that is where I start to question my own feminism credentials.
Free from the shackles of school and before the weight of wage paying work curtails your time for activism I was passionate in my support for CND, the miners and the plight of the homeless. We were about to be blown to smithereens by some menacing Ruskies and in the meantime some people were having a really hard time just living. On reflection I gave no thought to issues of women’s rights. So how does my lack of attention to the cause play out at Briffa. A head count today reveals an exact 50/50 split. Good start. There is no ‘crying room’ or ‘safe space’. If anyone cries it will be in full view. No activities suggesting a safe space might be needed have ever been known but fundamentally the work place is a tricky terrain to be navigated and managed whatever your gender. That said I believe all of us contribute to the cause of feminism by holding firm in the belief that there should be absolute equality between the sexes. This translates to equality of opportunity and advancement and progression on merit and merit alone. At Briffa we live the cause of feminism by running it on ‘active non aggressive no nonsense line.” Anyone want to debate that?