Tag Archives: sexism

Unwelcome behaviour at Conference

As a long time conference attendee, I adore the opportunity to meet Lib Dems, old and new, and engage and enthuse with like-minded people. But sometimes behaviour boundaries are pushed and we need to make a note of them to remind ourselves to challenge insidious sexist behaviour.

On the morning of Saturday 17th September, Lib Dems received a message from the Conference office entitled ‘Conference Guidelines’ which sets out details of what is unwanted behaviour.

Contemplating this, I thought it might be interesting to relate some unwelcome behaviour I encountered. I want to do this anonymously, but am aware others have noticed similar issues and feel it’s important we stand up to and challenge incidents like this when they occur.

On one day I attended the motion on Social Security. Now, it was a strong debate, with lots of opposing views. But when making those views, it should be noted it’s unacceptable to refer to a female speaker as “darlin’”, no matter how well you might know that individual. The language is sexist and patronising. While I believe the comment was made in an attempt at friendliness, it is still derrogatory and quite simply, should be wiped out. It’s on a par to David Cameron’s “calm down dear” episode at PMQs, and where we wouldn’t take the insult from the former Prime Minister, neither should we take it from friends or acquaintances. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 145 Comments

A whole world of sexist fail in today’s Sunday Times

It’s hard to imagine how today’s Sunday Times could possibly have got it more wrong.

It trailed that it had a “tantalising secret” about Nicola Sturgeon’s private life.

That turned out to be the fact that, five years ago, she had a miscarriage. What a crass way to headline an intensely painful experience.

And to add insult to injury, the paper accompanied the article with a panel featuring childless politicians. All of them were female.

As ever, women are judged by different standards. The excellent Women 50/50 campaign group made the point visually:

It was the Sunday Times sister paper, The Times, which published that interview when Andrea Leadsom suggested that being a mum meant that she “had a real stake in the future of this country.” Some culture change in that organisation is urgently required.

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What would you do if you were Mayor of Nice?

Nice is still in shock. It’s just about a month and a half since the appalling attack which killed 84 people. That sort of carnage happening on your doorstep takes some getting over. People experience a huge range of emotions from anger to fear. What should the authorities be doing to help people through this time?

They should be reassuring people. They should be helping the whole community stand together in solidarity.

Instead, their headline response has been to pick on innocent women because of their attire on a beach. I have rarely been more annoyed by anything than the sight of a sleeping woman on a beach being surrounded by armed police and being forced to remove clothing. All this in the name of protecting women from oppression. I’m not quite sure how that works as a logical explanation.

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Embrace feminism, says Justin Trudeau. Lib Dems could learn from that.

It seems that every day there’s a new reason to admire Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Guardian has a report of a panel session in Davos where he said that everyone should embrace feminism. He said that a more diverse team makes better decisions in both politics and business.

I particularly liked the clip in the video in which he said that his wife had reminded him that he not only had to encourage his daughter into taking leadership roles, but also to talk to his sons about treating women properly.

He also said that he thinks there will be as big changes in attitudes to equality in the next 20 years as there has been in the last 40.

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Swinson and Farron speak out against online abuse after threats sent to Labour MP Jess Phillips

The internet can be a torrid place, as we all know. If you’re a woman, especially one who dares express an opinion that doesn’t sit well with a very small minority of men, you are likely to get a particularly brutal form of abuse, usually coupled with threats of sexual violence.

When Labour MP Jess Phillips reacted with incredulity to Tory Phillip Davies’ request for a debate on International Men’s Day, she was subjected to some awful abuse. You know it’s bad when one of the milder things written was an observation that seeing her spirit die would be a rewarding experience. Who could possibly think that that was ok to say to anyone about anything?

Buzzfeed UK has the full story including the full tweet. They are pretty stomach turning.

It’s important to realise that women have to put up with this sort of nonsense every day. Yes, men get abuse too, but there is a gendered aspect that is chilling. A few years ago, I wrote about how demeaning it felt when a man sat next to me on a flight reading his lad’s mag with photos of very scantily clad women. I suggested that this might be something that they should not be doing in the public space and was told that I deserved to be raped, like brutal sexual violence was an acceptable reaction to disagreeing with someone.

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Women not going to husband’s work event? Dear Telegraph, this is not a story

There are very many reasons to criticise the Labour Party at the moment. The way they fell into George Osborne’s political trap when they should have tied him up in knots is just one. And while I’m at it, John McDonnell, if you’re going to get a bit passive aggressive with people in the Chamber, don’t immediately apologise. Either don’t do it at all, or do it with confidence. His responses to James Cleverly and Lucy Frazer show that he’s far too easy to wind up. You just can’t give that sort of ground. The lack of front bench experience is really showing here.

There is more than enough political carnage in which the right wing press can rub Labour’s nose. It really, really doesn’t need to make a story out of Jeremy Corbyn’s wife, Laura Alvarez,  not going to the state banquet for the Chinese President. She has her own life. Why should she be obliged to go to her husband’s work event? It’s not the first time something like this has happened. A couple of years ago, one of the BBC team mentioned in censorious terms that Miriam Gonzalez Durantez had not been at Liberal Democrat conference all week. She’d gone back on Sunday night and only returned for Nick’s speech. Well, blow me down, she actually went to work? What a scandal! I complained to the BBC about that one and got precisely nowhere.

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Pregnant pause

Ruth BrightHere is a picture of a woman. There is something strange about her. Can you spot it? Well of course you can. She is from a very small and curious minority. She is a Liberal Democrat activist! The bump? Well that puts her in a numerically far more significant group. 700,000 women in this country have a baby each year. Having a baby is a normal thing to do. All the time people are saying that they want more candidates to be “normal” people. But being a pregnant candidate some years ago made me feel that I was in a freak show, the ultimate “elephant in the room”. Sadly I do not think that things in the party have changed very much.

Here are my top 6 clumsy attitudes to my “political” pregnancy:

  • Doing a speech and being told by a former councillor that I mustn’t get too big;
  • Being told by a former PPC’s wife at a party fundraiser that I was “a walking caesarean”;
  • “Oh no not another one”- reaction from a party chair when he spotted my second pregnancy;
  • “I’m afraid I could spot you all the way down the corridor” – party veteran at the Commons when I was 8 months pregnant;
  • “Have you got another one in there?” comment from local treasurer at my failure to shift the post-baby weight
  • Removal of my baby birth announcement from the local party website as it might help my imminent re-selection (!).
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