One Liberal Democrat man’s view of International Woman’s Day

Austin Rathe, formerly Head of Membership at LDHQ, posted this as his Facebook status on Tuesday, International Women’s Day. I thought it was worth reposting here, with his permission of course. .

So, guys, I’ve seen a couple of you post today asking why there isn’t an International Men’s Day*.

OK, I get it, it’s supposed to be about equality right? So why do we have something for women we don’t have for men?

I’ll explain why, but before we begin I’d like you to stop, look up from your desk (or other place of work) towards a female college. Don’t stare, but just imagine for a few moments that you’re not you, you’re that woman who you know, probably respect and hopefully care about.

Ok. So let’s go.

Now you’re a woman, your pay just got cut by 24%. Put that into pounds and pence and think how pissed off you are. You should be, it’s outrageous that because you just switched gender you’re getting paid less, but that’s what happens. And it adds up. Over your life as a woman you’re going to earn on average £300,000 less than you would have done as a man. Now we’re all proud of our penises, but I don’t think any of us would claim that it makes us 24% more productive at work. If yours does, please post tips in the comments.

Let’s head outside for a bit to calm down. Maybe a bit of shopping over lunch? Well, get ready for the double whammy, because not only do you have a lot less cash now, but you have to pay more for the same stuff. That’s right, on average the female versions of products (for example clothes) cost 7% more than the male ones. And of course, from now, your going to have to buy sanitary products once a month whether you like or not. And they’re a luxury, so you pay VAT on them as well. Lucky you.

There’s no reason for this, women’s clothes don’t actually cost any more to make than men’s, It’s just the way it is because we choose to let it be.

So, time to head home. This day’s really sucked, but it’s not over. The worst part of your new found female form is yet to come. Here’s the cherry on the cake; as a woman you’re way more likely than you were a few minutes ago to be harassed on the street (4 in 10 women report being sexually harassed in public in the last year), way more likely to suffer domestic abuse (85% of victims are female) and way more likely to be killed by your partner (two women per week, on average).

As an aside, here’s a fun little game for you to play which might make you realise just how scary being a woman can be. Later on today, ask a female friend, someone you care about, when they were last followed on the street by a stranger at night. Don’t ask if they have *ever* been followed on the street, ask when the *last* time was. The answer will shock you.

It is, frankly, an outrage that in 2016 all of these things are still true. It doesn’t need to be this way, it’s this way because we choose to let it be.

That’s why we have International Women’s Day. It’s not that men don’t suffer violence, have tough times at work or generally have bad shit happen to them. Of course they do, but not on anything like the same scale. On average, being a man makes every day of your life easier.

IWD is about raising awareness of the huge inequality we still have. When we’ve achieved equality maybe we can just have an International People’s Day and go around congratulating each other about how awesome we are. Until then, and whilst women get paid less, attacked more and generally have a much tougher time in the modern world than men do, we’re going to carry on talking about it.

*There is actually an International Men’s Day, it’s on November 19th. And the other 363 days a year.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Mar '16 - 10:48am

    Excellent post, and as you have pointed out, there is an International Men’s Day.

  • “There is actually an International Men’s Day, it’s on November 19th. And the other 363 days a year.” What a cynical statement!

    International Men’s Days raises some extremely important issues for men, including health and well being And men do have struggles and things to overcome. Small minded to dismiss it in this way Caron!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Mar '16 - 12:46pm

    This is getting silly ! I think we can do better than the constant attention drawn to the apparent vulnerability of women and yet the apparent strength too, if only AWS were implemented.I feel we should be uniting in harmony as Liberals , as Democrats , as human beings !Why constant reminders of differences that are divisive , of the inequalities of middle classes doing well or badly often due to far more nebulous or particular reasons .

    I am involved in the arts and creative industries .It is as hard for a man in many instances to get anything moving in such a profession, and certainly as far as respect in wider the world of work.It is also a very egalitarian field where creativity and ideas are celebrated regardless of gender.

    The above article is a winey navel gazing self hating nonsense .
    I think the women in our wider society who have moved on from a feminism that is about division , are the true champions of womens rights .They are right !

  • Simon Thorley 11th Mar '16 - 2:41pm

    “Now you’re a woman, your pay just got cut by 24%” This is incorrect: according to the ONS, the overall gender pay gap stands at 9.4%, and women in their 20s and 30s are now paid more, on average, than men (ONS). Moreover, salary is only one part of the benefits that someone gets from working in any particular role. As a measure of anything it’s far too simplistic.

    “On average the female versions of products (for example clothes) cost 7% more than the male ones.” There are a range of commercial reasons why this is the case; it isn’t due to discrimination in the vast majority of cases. Also – products sell at the price people are willing to pay for them.

    “85% of [domestic abuse] victims are female” It’s closer to 66% (ONS).

    There’s no doubt that, on aggregate, women are disadvantaged in our society. Using inaccurate statistics does nothing to promote the removal of this disadvantage.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Mar '16 - 4:09pm

    @ Tracy,
    I am a feminist who has never argued for female equality. In fact as a liberation feminist my argument has always been for a recognition of female difference, and the need for a radical change in the structures of our society to take account of female difference.

    We are celebrating ‘International’ Women’s Day in a world where female infanticide accounts for millions of deaths. It is an horrific practice, one that I have direct experience of. In our own society, the killing of women by partners and ex-partners amounts to a form of femicide. (Well done to Jess Phillips for her roll call in Parliament.) I hope , like Caron, that more women in power will lead to an improvement for the treatment of women as a whole, although I’m not 100% sure that that will be the case.

    I can’t imagine that I will ever vote Liberal Democrat again, but I do support what Caron and others , including men, who argue on behalf of women are trying to achieve.

  • Ruth Bright 11th Mar '16 - 4:29pm

    If anyone finds Austin Rathe’s post “whiney” and “divisive” it would be intriguing to know their view of J S Mill’s “Subjection of Women” which covers similar territory in a different era. How on earth is it “navel gazing” for Austin Rathe to show empathy for the human experience of others? It is quite the reverse.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Mar '16 - 7:16pm

    Tracy and Simon

    Thank you for your compassion for others , from Tracy , and consideration of facts, from Simon.

    Women in some parts of the world , en masse , are disadvantaged, treated as second class citizens or worse .So are LGBT men , more than women often , in many of those countries.

    Women in Britain , or other developed countries are treated badly by people who treat them badly . Those can be and often are , men , inconsiderate ones , or downright villains .Those people , particularly in human interactions and relationships , privately or at work , are sometimes other women.

    There is no such thing as “a tampon tax .”There is a sales tax on goods and services we call VAT. For tampons it is at the reduced rate of 5 %. Without getting into the sort of “ner nicky ner ner ,” most of us did not even get involved in at school , VAT is also 5% for condoms , it was reduced at the same time , it is not zero for mens shaving products , whether wet shave razors or electric , it is 20%!

    Clothes and other products are obviously a bit more expensive for women on occasion,because the quality and the market is more lucrative , as women shop for such items more , that is a capitalist feature , not a sexist one , and if disliked , needs an economist or a socialist , rather than a feminist to give a response !

    Pay in this country on indicators of averages , is going up for women , down for men, because women are increasingly getting skilled jobs , men are not as much , and many more men are unemployed .

    Girls are doing better at all levels of school.

    We have a female head of state who is a wonder to behold.

    Women have achieved so much progress . To compare modern Britain to the sujection of women at the time of Mill, is ludicrous. It would be so much better , though if we could get back to the desire for true equality, our shared humanity . And not a “woe is me,” oriented ,attitude ,that does nothing for the cause of women if it alienates them from their only potential ,usual , actual , indeed ,ally ,other than other women . Namely men! The good and decent and not prejudiced men who are , and let us celebrate something , for once , the vast majority of men !

    It is odd , most of my friends have always been women , neither they , nor I , have ever for a moment dwelt on our differences in any negative way .Mind you , most of those women are not involved in party politics!

  • I employ both men and women and I pay them exactly same hourly rate for the same work. For the average gap to be 24%, that means for every employer like me paying there same there must be another employer paying women half the going rate – or rather paying men double the going rate if they can get women to do the same job for so much less.

    Such companies can be named and shamed so that
    1) shareholders can protest and ask why their money is being wasted paying double when women are available to do the same job for less.
    2) men who currently roll eyes at such statistics start to believe them when they see the real examples.

  • Jacob Collins 11th Mar '16 - 8:52pm

    As an engineer, I think I’d find it hard to look up and find a female colleague to look at most of the time…….but that’s not because I work for a sexist organisation or that my boss is sexist, but because there are very few women or girls who want to be engineers. I highly doubt that the few women there are working for my organisation are paid less, never mind 24% less. Could it be that one of the main reasons for the gender pay gap is simply because men and women choose different careers? Again taking my industry as an example, engineers are on average, paid higher than the average salary in the UK, and therefore engineers will skew the national data slightly. If you take into account all the other industries with higher than average salaries dominated by men, simply because women do not choose these careers, then couldn’t that explain at least some of the pay gap.

    I am sure women’s clothes are not more expensive because of discriminatory clothes stores. At a guess it’s because of market forces……I’m pretty sure the balance between the supply and demand for women’s and men’s clothing is different, having an effect on price.

    The widespread harassment of women is a disgrace, but as I am not one of the men taking part in this activity, I dont see how i choose to let it happen as this person suggests. I only have control over my own actions not the actions of other people. Also, neither do I choose what employers pay their employees or what price women’s clothes are. Unless you suggest I choose to let this happen by not choosing a government that sought to control people’s pay or the price of peoples clothes.

  • Now you’re a woman, your pay just got cut by 24%.

    I have real problems with this statement, but then for most of my working life, I’ve reported to a woman manager/head of department/Finance Director and never once got the impression that they were paying me significantly more than my female colleagues.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Mar '16 - 10:00pm

    @Simon Thorley,
    The ONS based it’s calculations on hourly earnings excluding overtime, whereas Robert Half UK based its calculations on average annual earnings, hence the different results.

  • James Rumsby 11th Mar '16 - 11:02pm


    You raise important points especially regarding violence against women here and around the world. And there is no doubt that there are issues that women face that need addressing.
    However, that does not mean you can dismiss issues facing men so easily. It is not a zero sum game, where the only way to get equality for women is to bring men down.
    I am a single dad separated from my ex partner. I take responsibility and I share the childcare of my 4 year old son. However, I can’t claim benefits like my ex partner, only one person can claim child benefit…the mother…and that person can claim every other benefit and maintenance on top. How can that be right, that in this day and age only females are deemed suitable to be able to spend money and need state help in the bringing up of children.
    And that’s not all, there are thousands and thousands of men up and down the country, who care deeply about the most important things in their lives, but for whatever reason their ex partners refuse to let them see their children and the courts seem impotent in doing anything about it, even after the father has spent thousands of pounds just to see their own children.
    You raise tampons…and I absolutely agree with you. But only until recently males could pay hundreds of pounds more on car insurance just because they were a male, not because of their driving record. Granted statistics show males have more crashes, but you could be the most careful male driver and still pay more. And that’s before ‘women free’ in nightclubs around the country.
    Then there is male suicide which is the biggest killer of males under 30. Men’s health which still isn’t as publicised as women’s health issues.
    At no point do I wish to belittle in anyway women’s issues or what you raise. They are important.
    But no way does that mean that very important issues relating to males should not be addressed too. And international men’s day is important.
    Women cannot by definition have equality unless men have equality.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Mar '16 - 12:32pm

    @ John Marriott,

    A new party has been launched, the Women’s Equality Party. They will be standing candidates in the 2020 GE. A new group ‘ Women again has found its way onto my Facebook page. The post responded to a UKIP member’s demand for a Men’s Day by pointing out there already is one.

    The sisters far from lightening up, seem to be coming on strong.

  • @Lorenzo
    “I am involved in the arts and creative industries.. It is also a very egalitarian field”

    I’m surprised you should say that because many actresses have been complaining for years that there are hardly any parts for them compared to men. Some research a couple of years ago found that men outnumber women by a 2:1 ratio throughout all positions in the theatre industry – from playwrights to actors – despite women making up 68% of theatregoers.

    @Jacob Collins
    “Could it be that one of the main reasons for the gender pay gap is simply because men and women choose different careers?”

    An alternative question is: Could it be that one of the reasons female-dominated professions tend to have much worse pay than male-dominated professions is that those professions are female-dominated? Or do you think there is something inherently superior about male-dominated professions like engineering?

    To consider one obvious example: why is the average nurse paid £5K less than the average firefighter and £7K less than the average police officer (according to Couldn’t be anything to do with the fact that most nurses are women, could it? (In case you’re thinking it’s due to the relative dangers of the jobs, it isn’t that either – statistically nursing is the most dangerous of the three according to the HSE.)

    Consider also these three facts about hairdressing: (1) It’s the lowest paid profession in the UK. (2) 90% of hairdressers are women. (3) Male hairdressers are paid on average 17% more than female hairdressers.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Mar '16 - 1:39pm


    You make a valid point, I meant amongst artists , themselves, performers, actors in particular and singers and also other musicians , have a real camaraderie, while visual artists are creative individuals first and foremost and it is their work that speaks .

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Mar '16 - 10:34pm

    @ John Marriott,
    I have just watched the part of yesterday’s Daily Politics that you mention. It was cheap and nasty and unworthy of a show that purports to be a serious political programme.

    I was impressed by the courageous and determined performance of Caroline Pidgeon, and I am sorry that the polls do not look good for her at the moment. She deserves a greater personal vote.

  • @John Marriott
    I watched the interview, didn’t think it was particularly cheap or nasty – but hey, I’m not a Lib Dem Party Member.
    The program is probably only watched by those who are (over) engaged in politics, surely the worry should be about being totally ignored elsewhere? I’ve just visited the BBC, ITV and Sky politics pages, the Lib Dems are not mentioned on any of them and you’re just having a conference in York aren’t you?

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Mar '16 - 10:41am

    @ Chris- Sh,
    I am not a Lib Dem member either, or even since 2015 a Lib Dem voter in GE’s. All I can say is that you have a higher tolerance level for contempt than I.

    The editing of the programme not only displayed contempt for Tim Faron, but also for those members of the electorate who support him.

    Worse, it showed contempt for those serious minded people who follow such programmes because they understand that politics affects the lives of the millions of people who reside in this great country of ours and the importance of casting their vote in away that is most likely to improve those lives.

    @ John,
    I agree. When you got the chance, you blew it, and I think that Caroline Pidgeon tried to give a realistic answer when she addressed how long it might take to regain the trust tht many of us put in the party. However, I listened to her, and I would listen to her on the doorstep. If I were a Londoner, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that I would vote for her.

    I will still vote for my local counsellors based on their individual values and merits rather than party affiliations, just as I voted for a hard working Lib Dem MEP candidate in the last Euro. elections whilst unable to vote for the party candidate in the GE.

    To those who point out the difficulties faced by men. I sympathise, but I would like to point out that those difficulties existed and continue to exist at a time when men have held the power to change things. What was to stop Philip Davies and his ilk raising important issues such as ignorance prostate cancer and the high rate of suicide rate in men in the years his party have been in power and moreover, doing something about it?

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Mar '16 - 11:09am

    John Marriott,
    John, when you are marching towards the sound of guns, you will have a greater chance of success if you have the ‘monstrous regiment of women’ marching alongside you – 51 % of the population John, 51%!

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