The Gender Agenda #1 Why have women only training? What’s so special about women?

Womens shortlistsOn May 7th, I wrote my first article for Liberal Democrat Voice.

It wasn’t exactly ground-breaking. It was promo for an internal SAO, written in a hurry by a first-time candidate (me), a couple of weeks out from one of the toughest elections we’ve ever seen. It was less than five hundred words of innocuous fluff.

You would never have guessed it from the reaction.

Within a few hours, it had over seventy comments, and it hovered on the Most Read list for days. Why? Because it was about Liberal Democrat Women, and the training, mentoring and support they offer, exclusively to women.

Arguing on the internet is usually a waste of time. But among the anger, sarcasm and ad hominem digs – from both sides – there were a few genuine questions in the comment thread about what LDW is trying to do, and how it fits in with the party as a whole.

It’s worth answering them for those members of the party who haven’t made their minds up yet, and for potential members who worry about the Liberal Democrats’ ability to support women. Over the next few weeks I’ll try to do just that.

Comments kept coming back to the question of why the training isn’t available to everyone.

There are two answers to that:

Women have practical and social concerns that are irrelevant to men. 

LDW offers training on issues that will only ever affect women. What do you do if you need to breast-feed during meetings? How should you deal with pregnancy? What should you wear to a selection meeting, or a fundraising dinner, or a visit to a local factory?

While I’m at it, I’ve seen women’s training on what to wear described as patronising, stupid and even slut-shaming. To those people I say that anyone who’s been door-knocking knows first impressions are important. Campaigners need to look professional and comfortable in many different settings.

Any woman can tell you there are far more nuances to appropriate dress for women than men – this is why we all loathe the words ‘smart casual’ so much. They can also tell you that judgmental members of the public (of both genders) are far more likely to forgive a man who gets it wrong than a woman, because they assume she should have known about these subtleties. Add to that, the fact that the right clothing can improve confidence, and the cut of your coat stops being a frivolous extra.

The ‘social’ issues

The public – and even some local party members – ask women candidates things that they don’t ask men, and often these questions can leave women uncomfortable and unsure of themselves. Young women get, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’, ‘When do you plan on having children?’, ‘What will do you if you get pregnant?’ My favourite is the insidious not-quite-question, ‘So, you’re very career-driven…’ Women in their thirties and forties get accused of being selfish, if they don’t have kids, or not having time to care about anything else, if they do. Women over fifty are often ignored completely. Women of all ages also get far more direct sexist and sexual questions on doorsteps that men.

The only good thing about these questions is that generations of women have been asked them, and we’ve had time to come up with some pretty good answers: that’s what the training is for.

The questions reflect attitudes that men don’t experience and don’t need training to cope with, so they aren’t invited. This isn’t such a strange idea. We don’t open up parliamentary candidates’ training to councillors, or expect local treasurers to spend all their time in leaflet design workshops, because the information simply isn’t relevant.

But what about those men who are just interested? Wouldn’t many men gain from sitting in the back of one of these sessions and hearing about the difficulties their female colleagues deal with? Some of them might, but that’s where the second part of the answer comes in:

There is value in a women’s-only space.

It is an unpleasant but true fact that some women feel like they have been treated unfairly, or have been threatened, or even assaulted within the party. In those situations, the party owes a duty to its members to provide them with support and safety, on terms that work for them.

One of the best ways to do this is to provide a womens-only space, that allows women some anonymity and comfort when asking questions about pastoral care procedures or making complaints. It also has useful preventative effects, because women can ask hypothetical questions without fear of being shouted down or appearing to accuse any men in the room. Women armed with this information are more likely to bring a complaint early, which stops escalation, means local parties can deal with inappropriate behaviour earlier and makes it more likely the women will stay involved in the party.

They are also an advert for the party’s attitude to women. That is why it is worth having them at conference and giving the sessions the same status as any other party-supported training, rather than shoving them into a corner by, for example, just having a ‘pastoral care booth’. The very existence of a women’s-only space with such a high profile reminds women who haven’t even attended the sessions that we value our women members, and takes their concerns seriously.

So yes, in some ways women are different. And, no, letting men into the sessions wouldn’t help anyone.

Next time: the campaigners’ career ladder, and how women’s organisations help to turn members into activists.

* Alice Thomas is a member of the Federal Board and leads the FB working group on the disciplinary procedures. She is a solicitor based in Southwark who joined the Lib Dems in her hometown of Bromley & Chislehurst in 2006, just in time for her first by-election and has been campaigning ever since.

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141 Comments

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 10:47am

    Haters gonna hate. Regardless, LDW sounds like a good thing to me.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 10:50am

    I don’t have a problem with women only training sessions as long as we are allowed men only sessions too. If not then it just comes from the ideology that says men are nasty and oppressing women and that kind of feminism is as bad as racism and I will say that loud and proud. It has got to the stage where many women pretty much want guilty until proven innocent for legal cases against men when there is a female victim, alleged or not.

    So yes, I’ll say it loud and proud, I view extreme radical feminists as bad as racists. It is the same negative prejudice against a group of people that needs to be tackled.

    A far better approach is the one Jenny Willott made in her Huffington Post article. Even if you do not have this negative approach to men yourself, some people do have it and it needs to be tackled. It is the fear of this ideology that contributes to all the arguments.

    Best wishes to yourself, I don’t hate anyone, not even racists, but I fail to see how negative prejudice against men is different to negative prejudice against black people. And even if you don’t believe that yourself, you appear to be pandering to it, like UKIP.

  • Eddie: “extreme radical feminists ”

    Could you define what you mean by this? And then, perhaps, identify this dangerous group’s nefarious influence in the Lib Dems…

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 11:54am

    Stewart, no. My post was clear enough.

  • Richard Dean 30th Jun '14 - 12:04pm

    It’s not often that I agree with Eddie Sammon, but I think he makes sense here.

    I see nothing in a political setting that is relevant to women but not men. Breast feeding, period pain, boyfriends, girlfriends, pregnancies, being selfish, FGM, women’s rights, dress code. All these things are topics for voters, so they are topics for everyone in the party, not just women.

    Men get sexist comments in the doorstep, and a lot of personal abuse. Women seem to need privacy in the same contexts that men do. The pastoral care system is hopefully designed to care for men as well as women and children.

  • Alice Thomas 30th Jun '14 - 12:13pm

    Hi Eddie and Richard – Let me just address something; nothing in my post talks about whether or not we should have men-only spaces because that’s not what the article is about. However, it is a logical extension of the idea that people should be able to request pastoral care in an environment that makes them comfortable, that if someone requests such a space I have no problem with the party providing it.

  • Thanks for a clear article, stating what should be obvious, please ignore the negative comments.

  • Alice Thomas 30th Jun '14 - 12:48pm

    Richard – if you look at the article you will see why I partially disagree with you, because training is aimed at addressing practical and social issues, not policy. While attitudes to breast feeding, for example, is a policy issue which we are all interested in, only women will need advice on how to deal with it as a practical issue.

  • Richard Dean 30th Jun '14 - 12:55pm

    I am on a train with my wife and baby. Baby is crying for milk. Is it a practical issue for my wife alone, or for me too?

  • Geoffrey Payne 30th Jun '14 - 1:00pm

    I would say to Eddie that if you want to have a male only training, then fine. Go ahead and organise one.
    In the meantime it is clear that our MPs are not representive of the British electorate and I welcome the contribution of LDW to put that right.

  • There is only one issue raised in this article that truly applies only to women and that’s pregnancy / breast-feeding. So, fine, have training that is only open to mothers or prospective mothers. But not all women are planning to have children and I would find it patronising and sexist to be offered advice on breast-feeding just because I’m a woman.

    Frankly, as Richard Dean points out, even the pregnancy / feeding stuff is applicable to fathers as well. My neighbours have a new baby and I see the guy taking it out for the day by himself just as often as the gal does it. What if he were a political candidate taking his baby with him while campaigning? Might he not appreciate some advice on how to handle bottle-feeding?

  • Richard Dean 30th Jun '14 - 1:22pm

    Here are some reasons for having women’s groups:

    > Women are weak, so they need a special group (the Payne rationale)
    > Women are problems, and the way to manage a problem is to form a group and then forget it (the MBA approach)
    > Women are scatty, so let’s put them in a special group so we men can continue with our grown up conversations and play with guns (ISIS approach)
    > Women are dangerous, so let’s put them in a group to contain them
    > Women embarrass me, so putting them in a separate group calms me down (the Edwardian)
    > Women are not interesting to us men, so putting them in a group saves us from boredom

    I’m sure there are many more. For the avoidance of doubt I don’t personally subscribe to any of them

  • I’m in the slightly unusual position of a few times having been the only man in a women-only training session by dint of being one of the trainers. I agree with Alice that they’re a good idea.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 1:36pm

    Alice, thanks for engaging in a positive way. As I said, I don’t really mind the idea of women only training sessions, but I also think things need to be discussed in the wider context and among sections in society there are negative prejudices against men and women and we both need to stand up strong to it.

    There is a mirror image problem of men and women getting shouted down if they dare to put their heads above the parapet, but we should encourage this open debate.

    I am also glad you are open to the idea of men only pastoral environments if people wanted it.

    Best wishes

  • Liberal Neil 30th Jun '14 - 1:43pm

    I agree with Alice.

  • Hannah Bettsworth 30th Jun '14 - 1:44pm

    Oh for the love of…

    We can have a women’s only space if we want to have a women’s only space. You want to have a male only space, fine, even though far too much of the political world is like that already and the whole point of tailored training was to encourage female candidates and help us get more women elected. I swear whenever we do anything to try and improve gender equality in this party someone comes along and objects to it. I’m sorry, but when we only have 7 female MPs we’re going to organise to try and do something about it. Actually, I’m not sorry about that at all.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 1:52pm

    Hannah, I fail to see how responding to male concerns with the phrase “for the love of…” is fair or productive. I am well read for a man on feminism and I know and understand your concerns about men shouting down anything aimed at helping women, but I am not doing that. Rather, I am saying I don’t mind the idea of women only training sessions, but I also don’t want anything to encourage anti male prejudice. It is a fine balance and we should be able to have this debate without resorting to grandstanding insincere comments such as “for the love of…”.

    Regards

  • Hannah Bettsworth 30th Jun '14 - 2:22pm

    Is anti-male prejudice seriously encouraged in the party anywhere?

    Ok, I’m going to be totally honest here and you can take it or leave it but there’s an issue on these threads (especially when we talk about FGM or feminist issues in general) that it becomes about male concerns incredibly quickly. And there are times when we are not talking about male concerns and do not have to address them at that point.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 2:38pm

    Hi Hannah, I agree there is a problem on these threads with people raising male concerns incredibly quickly, but there is a reason for this: there is anti male prejudice in society and the left wing media panders to it, mainly via selective reporting, and this makes us anxious. I know there is an identical problem with selective reporting and prejudices about women, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

    I feel that the solution is to recognise such problems and reassure against fears when starting a debate. We need to be reassured, we are sensitive too, even if we sometimes express it in an aggressive way.

    People shouldn’t feel as though they are treading on egg shells when discussing gender equality, but I think more progress can be made if people distance themselves from the ideology that society is pretty much only unfair to women.

  • Richard Dean 30th Jun '14 - 3:01pm

    Are there other groups within the LibDems that exclude a large proportion of LibDems from joining them?

  • Hannah Bettsworth 30th Jun '14 - 3:09pm

    Eddie, I can’t accept your premise that there is equal anti-male and anti-female prejudice in society. It’s taken us until 2014 to end all male boards in the FTSE 100. There are only 147 female MPs out of a parliament of 650. And yes, men do suffer from gender stereotyping, but a lot of that comes because they’re viewed as the ones who have to be strong all the time while women were viewed as the weaker sex. Feminism seeks to end such gender stereotypes. However, it also seeks to recognise that there is a certain privilege gained from being a man.

    Put it this way – I have white privilege. I am aware of this position that I come from in debates, and as such it makes sense for me to listen to the views of Black and Minority Ethnic people. If I were to come in and point out that there are issues affecting white children from underprivileged backgrounds when we’re discussing BAME representation in politics, that would not be the time or place to discuss the white working class. In that discussion it would not be expected of people to alleviate fears about non-BAME people because that would be derailing the discussion. Expressing things in an aggressive way is rarely conducive to debate and causes people (not unreasonably) to dismiss whatever point was expressed in that manner, or respond in a similar manner.

    I’m aware that you mentioned that you read about feminism – are you aware of the theory of intersectionality? It’s a part of liberation ideology (feminism being a liberation ideology) that states that multiple oppressions can intersect. In this sense, feminists are not suggesting that society is only unfair to women. Or at least proper feminists shouldn’t be. There are some who do not recognise the struggles of other groups, and I don’t want anything to have to do with that sort of feminism. As Flavian Dzodan states – “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bulls**t.”

    Essentially, intersectional feminism recognises that society is unfair to multiple groups, and that those groups can overlap.

    I would really recommend this blog as an explanation of what I’m trying to say: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

    I’m not sure if you’re aware of the conce

  • Richard Dean 30th Jun '14 - 3:12pm

    @Simon Oliver
    What are those aspects?

  • @Eddie Sammon – “I am well read for a man on feminism” is one of the most patriarchal, patronising comments I have read in years. Just because you’ve read a lot about oppression doesn’t necessarily mean you understand the pervasive wickedness of that oppression. To argue that you do is a gross injustice to those who have to live with oppression just because of their gender, race, religion or any other aspect of their life.

    Secondly – “there is an anti-male prejudice” in society. Where? Do you have any evidence to support this (so-far unsubstantiated) claim? When I look around in society I see a lot of anti-women prejudice (if you want the very latest example see the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby) but no anti-male prejudice.

  • Alice Thomas 30th Jun '14 - 4:47pm

    Richard – I have given examples in the article of exactly how aspects of training differ between men and women. Your example of breast feeding on a train is both useful to my point and slightly disingenuous. Useful, because the decision to breastfeed or not is your wife’s alone, as would be her decision whether to consult you about it, so it is a perfect example of a practical decision that only a woman has to make. Disingenuous because we weren’t talking about practicalities in general public situations: this article is about training for political candidates, who’s behaviour doesn’t just impact their immediate surroundings but has an impact on their career prospects. That is why I give the example of breast feeding in meetings – something female councillors have actually asked about in the past.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 5:07pm

    Alex, if you can only see prejudice against women and not men then you’ll just have to do a bit more reading and I’ll engage with you once you have.

    Hannah, I am not saying there is an equal amount of anti male prejudice, but there is a lot of it. I have been shown that blog post before, but I don’t really accept the male privilege theory. I would need to see some evidence that men are happier than women for me to accept this. People often point to women in the middle east as an example of male oppression, but the men are getting bullets in their head, so it is not as though anyone is having a great time.

    There are pros and cons of being a man and a woman, I don’t mind if people think the pros of being a man are greater in this moment in time and that needs to be tackled, but I’m weary of extremes who make out that we’ve been oppressing women for thousands of years and we need 50-50 quotas to bring down the patriarchy and create some kind of new feminist society. It won’t happen like that, not really because of men, but because women don’t really want it either.

  • @Eddie – No, you made a claim, you need to provide evidence to back it up, not just dismiss me as ignorant because I don’t agree with you. You can’t expect to make statements and expect people to agree with you without providing evidence and justification for why your claim is correct – that’s how debate works.

    So I ask you again – do you have evidence of the anti-male prejudice in society you claim exists? If you cannot provide any there is no alternative but to dismiss your argument as false.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 5:27pm

    Alex, I don’t need stats to tell me what I think is reading is offensive or not. I find prejudices against men offensive and I have already said it is in the left wing media, the Guardian and the New Statesman to be more specific, but it is also in speeches, blog posts, twitter, policies such as all female short-lists (but nothing for poor or disabled men).

    So in summary, I find certain speeches and theories offensive and I don’t need evidence to tell anyone that.

  • Richard Dean 30th Jun '14 - 5:30pm

    @Alice Thomas.
    I suspect that many couples might disagree with your proposals about decision-making over breast feeding, but anyway, is that really a reason for having woman-only groups? Is it really the strongest argument that can be mustered for such groups?

    The topic itself – breast-feeding in public – can certainly come up in discussions with voters, male and female, so both male and female canvassers and politicians need to know about it. The act itself is a perfectly acceptable and often practised public one, not confined to women’s only situations. Even if it wasn’t, the decision to breast-feed or not in public meetings impacts men as well as women, both in the audience, on the platform, and more generally in terms of how the local and national party is perceived, so men are involved in that decision too.

    It seems to me that separate groups within political parties are set up for two or three reasons. One is social, is that what you’re wanting? Another is to act as a focus for expertise, but in that case would there be a reason to exclude men? Another is to act as a power-base for someone representing that group, which can by some implication suggest a conflict with members of the wider party.

  • Hannah Bettsworth 30th Jun '14 - 5:32pm

    Ok, that was intensely patronising. Alex is working for an organisation called Women In International Security, so he knows what he’s talking about. I would also suggest that he’s done more reading seeing as he’s undertaking a Masters.

    Privilege doesn’t mean you’re happier or that you’re free of problems. Middle Eastern man is a harder difficulty setting than white man. Middle Eastern woman is a harder difficulty setting than both. The points system encompasses that – privilege does not mean you are automatically having a great time. It means that it is inherently easier for you to climb the levels in life. It does not mean that you will ascend the levels.

    Gender variances in happiness would not prove that privilege exists or does not exist. There is indeed a gender happiness gap but it appears to be a decline in happiness for women (http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/gender-society/paradox-declining-female-happiness) and is linked to “the time bind”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_bind)

    Women *have* been oppressed for thousands of years. Society is patriarchal, and does need to be more equal. Do I want quotas? No. Do I want to tackle societal attitudes that put up a glass ceiling and make men think it’s OK to touch me up when I’m waiting for a bus? Yes. Is that based in a patriarchal culture? Yes.

    The fact of the matter is, my liberalism means that I want everyone to have the same opportunities to get on in life. Women simply do not have the same opportunities as men, and if you can’t see that then there is very little point in me having this discussion with you.

  • @Eddie – I’m not asking for stats, I’m asking if you could please cite just one article from the Guardian, or the New Statesman, or a speech, or a blog post that is prejudiced against men? Well, maybe two, as you claimed such prejudice was widespread.

    Also you do need evidence to prove this prejudice exists – otherwise I could go around insisting the world was flat and demanding everyone agrees with me “because I don’t need evidence to tell anyone that.”

  • Alice Thomas 30th Jun '14 - 6:01pm

    Richard – again, this isn’t an article explaining why we have a women’s group in the Liberal Democrats, and you are actually mistaken that LDW restricts it’s membership . Any liberal democrat, of any gender or none, can join LDW. Until our new website goes up you can find out how to join here – http://womenlibdems.org.uk/en/ As you are interested in gender issues and policy I suggest you join us.

    This article is specifically about women’s training sessions, which is a different kettle of fish for the reasons set out above.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 6:03pm

    Hannah, I don’t think I was being intensely patronising. I was hinting that I don’t speak to people who fail to recognise I have a point on this subject.

    Funnily enough, you seem to feel a similar way. I accept women are discriminated against and the same opportunities are not available to them as men, sometimes by culture, by individuals, companies, the law, all over the place.

    I think we can create a more equal society in terms of gender balance, but it needs to be done in a positive way. Any anger should be directed at conservatives who want to preserve such structures, rather than at men as a whole.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 6:41pm

    Hi Alex, here is a list of recent articles that I have found offensive, but it would take a bit of an academic study to show you what I strongly feel is the prevalence of selecting reporting. It is just like a lot of the Daily Mail’s articles on immigrants aren’t too bad, but the prevalence of them feeds stereotypes.

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/jun/24/women-in-music-awards-aim-deborah-coughlin

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/30/lesbians-behaving-badly-strip-club-liberation-lads-laddism

    http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/06/mansplainers-anonymous-men-explain-things-me-rebecca-solnit

    http://www.newstatesman.com/glosswitch/2014/05/only-feminism-can-stop-my-sons-growing-hate-women

    This article below is actually a good one, she even admits to being asked to get angry about men. A lot of it is media click bait, but it’s feeding prejudices:

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jun/30/what-feminism-really-about-katharine-whitehorn

    The best examples I have are in my early days of spotting this when I used to complain to the publishers:

    Ah, it seems the title of this article was changed, possibly after I complained about it, this article used to be called along the lines of “FGM, mothers need to protect daughters from their fathers”.

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/sep/07/female-genital-mutilation-tradition-somalia

    I don’t want to repost articles I have posted before, but what I am saying it is it is mainly the selective reporting I disagree with. I don’t have evidence that the Daily Mail is conservative, but I think it is safe to say it probably is.

    Regards

  • Richard Dean 30th Jun '14 - 7:03pm

    @Alice.
    Ok, I now understand. Being a speed reader has its disadvantages! I apologize for making you work so hard to get your point across. Although I am still curious as to why men should be excluded from those training sessions.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 7:05pm

    I’ve got a comment pending, but this is a fantastic response published by the Guardian about anti male bias and it is even evidence based:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/sep/14/gender-studies-male-blaming-bias

  • Alice
    Just briefly. You may have provoked a lot of debate, but at least part of that is down to your excellent ability to write.
    I really enjoyed reading this blog
    S

  • David Allen 30th Jun '14 - 7:21pm

    “Women have practical and social concerns that are irrelevant to men.”

    I don’t agree. Nevertheless I think the idea of women-only training sessions (or meetings, or whatever) is perfectly sensible. It’s just Alice’s justification which is slightly off-beam.

    Men do need to know about breast-feeding, about what pregnancy does to their partners and/or to the people they meet canvassing, about what it does and doesn’t mean when women dress in particular ways, etc. In a narrow sense, Richard Dean is quite right about that. However – men can perfectly well learn these things in ordinary both-sex training, meetings, or whatever.

    Women also want to go away on their own, sometimes, to discuss these things, because then they can do so without risking feelings of embarassment. I’m sure (for example) that women find it easier to talk about breast-feeding if they don’t think there is some wretched bloke listening in and quietly sniggering. So they can have a better discussion. That’s the justification.

  • @Eddie – thanks for sharing. Although it has to be said that a single op-ed by an individual with a discredited* claim against one university department does not make for a conspiracy among the media to perpetrate systemic gender bias against men. You earlier suggested widespread prejudice in media and online against men – where is the evidence for this?

    * The opinion of the judge who dismissed Martin’s claim was that it was “a hopeless claim. This claim has in my opinion no chance of success at all.”( http://www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2012/mar/court-rejects-student-tom-martin%E2%80%99s-claim-anti-male-bias-london-school-economics)

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 7:38pm

    Alex, I’ve got a comment pending with a bunch of links in, but if you want a single link then here one is:

    http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2014/jan/27/rape-culture-campus

    I’ve been to uni and hung around with groups of “lads” for years (I’m 26) and scaring women and attacking men by talking about a rape culture is irresponsible. I remember when one of my good friends first mentioned it to me, I couldn’t believe she thought it was true.

    I don’t want to derail Alice’s debate, sometimes we just have to tackle the wider context. I would like the conversation to get back to Alice’s considerate arguments for women only training sessions.

    Best wishes to all.

  • Nick Barlow 30th Jun '14 - 7:59pm

    I think the only chink of light in this comment thread is that it actually took two comments before someone began the ‘but what about the men?’ posts.

    Seriously, it takes a special kind of genius to look around the world and think that the problem with it is that men are oppressed and don’t have enough power. But congratulations on derailing yet another thread to make it all about you.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 9:49pm

    Nick, I only hope that one day you recognise that it is better to listen to people’s anxieties, rather than to write them off completely as not valid.

    All of this arguing could be avoided if we took the positive approach to gender equality:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jenny-willott/gender-equality-women_b_5526022.html

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Jun '14 - 10:09pm

    @ Hannah Bettsworth,

    I am loving your posts.

    Please keep posting. Your posts make me feel fifty years younger.

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 10:30pm

    @Eddie Sammon
    LDW are not standing in the way of that, though?They’re not saying ‘you can’t be part of our group’. If someone established Lib Dem Men or Lib Dems Of All Genders, I sincerely hope there’d be no problem with that. If a mixed group showed up and said, hey, we’ve talked about this and we’d like you to run a mixed-gender training session for us, I doubt that LDW would refuse to help out. Maybe that really would be useful; I can see that it might be interesting to establish a mixed-gender space in which people felt able to ask questions about awkward topics in a safe setting. But it would be a different space and a different dynamic to the women’s-only sessions described above.

    By the way, you’ve mildly misunderstood the ‘rape culture’ concept. It’s not so much a stick with which to beat men as it is a stick with which to beat society.Men can be rape victims too. You don’t need to be male to be complicit in normalising abuse. And so on. Yes, the label may not be a terribly helpful one.

  • Hannah Bettsworth 30th Jun '14 - 10:33pm

    @Jayne Mansfield

    That’s such a lovely heartwarming comment. Thank you so much 🙂 I believe that Alex and Nick have said a lot of what I wanted to say so there may not be much point in resurrecting this thread, but fear not, my feminist essays are not going anywhere!

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 10:39pm

    Hannah, but do you not see the value in uniting with men to tackle gender issues? There could be so much more on your side if men didn’t feel personally attacked so often.

    I’m willing to accept criticism as long as people recognise I have a point, I’m not just being beaten with a stick for saying what I’m concerned about.

    To daft ha’p’orth, I am not against LDV or women only training sessions, I just think they need to distance themselves from the misandry often associated with it.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 10:41pm

    Dave, when I was reading the article the anxiety was eating me up inside. I’m not being told to know my place and stay quiet about it. These feelings are best out in the open. That way we can resolve them.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 10:48pm

    I’m very very sad at Caron’s tweet praising Alex’s and Hannah’s attacks on me. I shall be emailing her to voice my concerns. Someone who goes out of their way to voice deeply held and controversial feelings with a desire to resolve the issues should not be attacked and have their concerns written off.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 30th Jun '14 - 11:18pm

    Eddie, my tweet never mentioned you. I totally agree with Alex and Hannah’s contributions which have been framed in a perfectly respectful manner.

    I think there is a massive difference between hating men, which nobody here does, and recognising that society is built by men for men’s advantage to the detriment of women’s life chances.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 11:23pm

    By the way, Alex sounds like Alice, so I just want to be clear that I am not criticising Alice’s response to my complaints. She did the right thing by recognising I was concerned about something and distanced herself from it. She didn’t reinforce those concerns by attacking me.

    I’ll take criticism, but we need a thoughtful debate, even if sometimes a bit passionate. I don’t want to say much more on this thread, I am just looking for some reconciliation, but we can’t have that if people keep writing me off as paranoid or selfish.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 11:29pm

    Hi Caron, it didn’t have to mention me, I knew it was about me and it shows how much I respect you that it felt like a blow to the stomach to see it.

    My opening comment was probably a bit too harsh, so I am sorry for that, but I still think I have a point and I tried to make it clear that I don’t hate anyone.

    I hope to move on from this sorry thread and I will think how I can avoid making people so angry in future.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 11:32pm

    This is definitely the first time tears have started dropping from my eyes from a LDV thread. It is not blackmail to tell people this, I just want to communicate feelings and try to resolve the issues.

  • Malcolm Todd 30th Jun '14 - 11:35pm

    Yet again a perfectly reasonable, interesting article on a minor aspect of the important issue of addressing discrimination against women in the political sphere ends up in a mile-long Comments thread about Eddie Sammon’s feelings. Eddie, it is not disrespecting you or undervaluing your feelings to point out that they are not the subject of this post and of no more than tangential relevance to it. This — and not some conspiracy of überfeminists, personal antipathy or hatred of men — is why the behaviour you are engaging in is regarded as hijacking.

    There are undoubtedly circumstances in modern society in which men are discriminated against or made to feel uncomfortable. Whether they are really comparable to the problems faced by women is not the point. You’ve every right to submit an article on the issue yourself or to comment where it’s appropriate and relevant.

    But that’s not the subject of Alice Thomas’s article, which was not an attack on men or even a claim that women exclusively have problems. I think Hannah’s “Oh for the love of…” was a quite restrained and understandable response to your (sadly quite successful) attempt to make this into yet another futile debate about something quite different.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Jun '14 - 11:37pm

    @ Alice Thomas,
    Since there has been a call for evidence on this thread, and the subject of breast feeding has been raised, may I say that there is plenty of recent published evidence that despite the fact that breast feeding has health benefits for both mother and baby, there are still strong social and cultural barriers that lead to low initiation rates for breast feeding in the UK.

    It might be argued that women make the decision whether to breast feed or not, but that decision is made in a social and cultural context where there are powerful pressures not to choose the method.

    I enjoyed your first article and it wasn’t ‘innocuous fluff’.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '14 - 11:45pm

    Malcolm, I accept I sometimes comment too much, but it is not me merely selfishly raising my feelings. The topic genuinely hurts me, to the point where it makes me sob to have my concerns written off. I am not just undertaking a cynical ploy to derail a debate.

    I will learn from this, but it’s not mere feelings when feeling knots in your stomach, having an arguments and sobbing afterwards at the sadness of it all and the desperation to have concerns recognised as legitimate.

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Jul '14 - 12:02am

    @ Eddie Sammon,
    Eddie, you really need to stop personalising any argument that does not accord with your own, you are just hurting yourself when there is no intention of anyone else to hurt you.

    I am always interested in what you have to say, as a clapped -out old ( radical) feminist, I I just don’t agree with you on the issue of LDW and feminism.

    I hadn’t known until you mentioned it on this thread, that you are young enough to be my grandchild. When my children or grandchildren get upset, I usually make them a nice cup of tea and listen to what is upsetting them. I’m sorry I can’t do that for you, so wipe away those tears and make yourself. a cup of tea. You are upsetting yourself needlessly. Tomorrow will be a new and I hope, better day for you.

    Take care of yourself.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '14 - 12:05am

    Thanks Jayne :), I will go and have a cup of tea and go to bed.

    Good night. 🙂

  • daft ha'p'orth 1st Jul '14 - 12:19am

    @Eddie Sammon
    I realise that you feel that there is misandry associated with this, and understand that this is something you find a source of anxiety.

    That said I think that the extreme radical feminist nomenclature isn’t quite appropriate.TBH (without wishing to imply that I hold any particular stance on Dworkin’s works), I’m pretty sure there are no Andrea Dworkins in LDW. The argument that a mixed group inhibits discussion is to some extent reminiscent of Mary Daly’s Boston College situation, but it isn’t really a Mary Daly situation, either, even if the ‘women only session’ concept is present in both. If it were the only avenue for such training, then it would be more directly comparable, but it doesn’t seem to me that this is the case here. There is a good discussion about this case here: http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/daly1.html – the suggestion made by Kathleen Trigiani strikes me as a good one:

    A good win/win solution to these issues could be to make the womens’ studies classes coed, but have single-sex “lab” groups for working out various issues.

    I’d see the LDW women-only training as a metaphorical lab for the coed group. I’m guessing that LDW participants would not in general have a problem with the existence of, or even with contribution to, training sessions with varying attendance that discuss issues from a variety of other perspectives.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 1st Jul '14 - 12:39am

    Eddie,

    I have to say that I find your persistence in claiming that there is anti-male prejudice in society rather perturbing.

    Yes, there may be some who take an anti-male view – I’ve met precious few myself, but there you go – but given that, on virtually all positive measures, women tend to fare less well than men, you’ll pardon me if it isn’t high on my list of concerns.

    If women feel that they benefit from having a women-only space in which they can develop, or reinforce skills, that’s just fine, so long as opportunities to develop those same skills are available to men, and I have no reason to believe that they aren’t.

    To be blunt, Eddie, you and I come from a group to which society currently gives a great many advantages, whether sought or not. We are likely to earn more than a woman doing the same job, our career prospects are better, the list goes on and on. And within the Party, there are issues. I’ve lost track of the number of meetings where women have been talked over, or simply overlooked, and providing the option of a women-only space does allow for skills to be developed or ideas discussed in a more effective environment.

    We still struggle to achieve equality of the genders in terms of Parliamentary candidates, council candidates and, indeed, most other aspects of the Party, and if providing women-only spaces for training helps to even up those numbers a bit, then I’ll happily stand back and let LDW do its work.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '14 - 9:00am

    Morning. Well, I’m still hurt after letting all my passions out and seeing myself pretty much get abandoned for it.

    People might not believe me, but the sadness is real. I’ll always stay strong mentally, so it is nothing to worry about, it is just sad. I like to think that in another party, one where people embraced balance and proportion, I wouldn’t get abandoned and accused of undertaking a cynical men’s rights ploy.

    People will say “but this isn’t the thread to do it”, but there are reasons why I don’t write articles at the moment. I just wanted people to recognise I have a point, not treat me as crazy and write off my concerns entirely.

    A cooling off period is required after getting my heart broken. It’s not all about me, but I’m probably the only one feeling close to how I did when I had a panic attack last night. It wouldn’t have gone down this route if people recognised that I had a point.

    Have a good day, speak to you later no doubt.

    Regards

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '14 - 9:06am

    By the way, that was meant to read that I didn’t have a panic attack last night, I have only ever had one, nearly three years ago, but I don’t remember feeling that sad since I last had one, so that’s why I feel a cooling off period is necessary.

  • Malcolm Todd 1st Jul '14 - 9:59am

    Eddie.
    It’s not about you — that’s the point. Nobody is arguing about whether your feelings are “real”. Of course they are — as real as anybody else’s. But that doesn’t excuse you making this into a discussion of your feelings and thereby (no doubt unintentionally) derailing a discussion about something else altogether. I debated with myself whether to just leave this alone now, because it is obviously genuinely causing you distress. But the problem is, this is not the first time, not even the second time, that you have effectively taken over a thread about women and made it into one not just about men, but about Eddie Sammon. The result is that people who actually want to discuss the issue are effectively drowned out of the debate.

    I’m only old enough to be your parent, not your grandparent, but I endorse Jayne’s advice: “Eddie, you really need to stop personalising any argument that does not accord with your own, you are just hurting yourself when there is no intention of anyone else to hurt you.”

  • Do we have training sessions for ethnic minority / LGBT candidates, to which non-EM or non-LGBT people are not invited? (this is a genuine question, by the way – I don’t actually know, I’m not just being sarcastic or something)

  • A good sensible article with practical solutions to some of the problems women have to deal with. I dare say I don’t appreciate all the different problems women have, but I have been married a long time and seen my wife agonise over what was the right outfit to wear for interviews, presentations and work in general. I sometimes tease her, but I do appreciate that the most difficult decision I have to make in those situations is what colour tie to wear. It’s nice to read a article that keeps the balance right and doesn’t turn into “all the troubles of the world are down to men”.

  • ” but this is a fantastic response published by the Guardian about anti male bias and it is even evidence based:”

    I am seriously concerned that Tom Martin is being cited here as proof of anti-male bias. A man who frequently claims that 97% of women are “whores”, argues that child prostitutes (also ‘whores’) need to be prosecuted for sexually victimising male paedophiles by enticing them, and that child rape isn’t actually possible as the girls (‘sluts’) know the nature of the contract they are entering into. The nicest thing you could say about him is he’s a publicity seeking contrarian.

    Mind you given Lib Dems FoP’s claim last week that they didn’t realise that endorsing an article by a holocaust denier calling for voters to reject Ed Miliband solely on the grounds of his Jewishness could ’cause offence’, nothing surprises me.

  • Alice Thomas 1st Jul '14 - 11:45am

    Catherine – I am not aware of any. However, if such sessions were requested there is a good argument for them on similar grounds to those set out above.

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Jul '14 - 12:21pm

    @ Eddie Sammon,
    Good morning Eddie, I am sorry that you are still sad, clearly you are in a very vulnerable state if your heart has been broken by what many of us would consider quite mildly stated disagreements with your point of view. If something is causing you such a degree of pain, perhaps you do need to distance yourself from the source of your pain. All too often we act like moths to a flame and end up inflicting unnecessary suffering on ourselves.

    Unfortunately,, as Malcolm Todd has indicated, and I am sure that this is not what you wish to happen, by exhibiting your distress and extreme vulnerability when it comes to the subject of the thread, well -meaning people who have no intention of inflicting pain on anyone, feel inhibited about continuing with the discussion.

    Evidence demonstrates that women have not achieved full equality with men. Women face multiple barriers when they try to change this. When force, the abuse of power and other methods fail, the last throw of the dice is often an appeal to feel sorry for the group who wield the power- an all too successful strategy! Although your pain is so sincerely felt, it is important that you understand the way in which power and control are maintained over women. You may disagree with me, but from what I have just averred, perhaps you can see how drawing attention to your undoubted distress might be misinterpreted.

    No-one is underestimating the difficulties faced by men, but that is not the subject of this thread. Feminism, although a dirty word to some of the younger generation , including young women who have benefitted from it, was never anti- man. In fact, by freeing men from gender stereotypes and expectations it is an ideology that has sought to improve the lot of all genders.

    I hope your mood improves during the day, sadness, low mood and a feeling that one is undervalued are horrible crosses to bear and sometimes we need help to overcome them, they are too overwhelming to deal with alone. Many people have episodes where they feel as you do, human distress is an unwelcome reminder that we are indeed human.

    Take care.

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Jul '14 - 1:32pm

    @ Alice Thomas,
    I am not a member of the party so I do not understand how LDW operates, but to me it sounds like a very sensible self -help group where experiences are shared and learned from and external trainers are called upon to increase the store of knowledge, as such I don’t see why its existence needs to be justified.

    I found it interesting that in certain high profile court cases, it was reported that the female defendants employed stylists to determine the clothing that would most create a favourable impression. If highly successful women lack the confidence to choose clothes that are appropriate to a given situations and feel that they may be unfairly judged as a consequence of their choice, this anxiety alone demonstrates the importance and value of LDW is as a grouping.

  • Alice Thomas 1st Jul '14 - 4:00pm

    Jayne – glad to hear you feel that way. Unfortunately as you can tell from the comments not everyone agrees with you.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '14 - 5:38pm

    Malcolm, it takes more than one person to derail a debate, so learn to take some responsibility for your actions and stop talking to me whilst blaming me for it!

    Hi Alice, thanks for the tone of your reply.

    I can’t read this anymore. The left has prejudices about men and it shouldn’t be so hard to admit it. I’m sorry for derailing the debate, but it takes more than one to derail and I wouldn’t have typed so much if so many people didn’t effectively accuse me of being a mad man and making it up in my head.

    Maybe we’ll speak another time.

    Best wishes

  • Malcolm Todd 1st Jul '14 - 6:13pm

    Total comments on this thread: 72 (including this one).
    Total comments by me: 3 (including this one).
    Total comments by Eddie Sammon: 23 (including in his last: “it takes more than one person to derail a debate”).

    Come off it, Eddie.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '14 - 6:15pm

    Oh sorry, the reply to me was by Jayne, not Alice, sorry!

    I thought I would read the rest of the new comments, I was in a fine mood, but for whatever reason reading the new ones had put me back into a bad one, especially the first one by Malcolm, which I felt was blaming me entirely for so many writing to me. Alas, I’m in favour of reconciliation, so no hard feelings, and I appreciate he was nice to me too.

    Jayne, thanks for your kind words. I would like to have a proper civilised discussion about feminism some time, the positive kind that recognises gender roles hold men back too, but unfortunately I’m sure we both agree this isn’t the read to do it :).

    I think that is it for now. Best wishes to everyone, and I’m a bit sorry to Alice for using the thread to vent my feelings, however, I don’t feel able to write articles at the moment, so it wasn’t a selfish cynical ploy.

    Regards

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '14 - 6:17pm

    Malcolm, just seen your new comment published, please read my last one, I commented a lot, but it was partly because so many were typing comments to me.

  • @Dave Page – thanks for that and sounds good. I’m not sure though how people (including you and other LGBT+ members) would feel if you ran an event where non-LGBT people were explicitly excluded. Again, I honestly don’t know, but I’d be surprised if that idea didn’t attract more criticism than exclusion based on gender. Same for ethnicity – not sure how well an event where people were turned away based on skin colour would be received. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I’ve heard it argued that straight people shouldn’t go to Pride for instance, but it’s less common and I don’t think I’ve heard that sort of attitude from liberals much. We seem more willing to accept gender segregation than other forms for some reason.

  • Richard Dean 1st Jul '14 - 10:41pm

    What’s actually so special about women is that they have to go to all the trouble of writing an article called “What’s so special about women”, thereby causing a whole load of confusion in men, instead of just going right ahead with the women-only training and not making such a fuss about it.

    In fact, you’d probably often get a women-only training session if you just advertised what you are training people for, without specifically excluding any gender. Wouldn’t that be a liberal approach, allowing people to decide for themselves? And what harm would it do if someone who was not a woman happened to attend every now and again?

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Jul '14 - 11:26pm

    @ Catherine,
    The LDW does not sound like a form of gender segregation to me, more like a self- help group that seeks to develop strategies that allow them to compete on a more level playing field, thus enabling them to achieve what they wish for themselves in life. I feel the same about such organisations as the Black Police Association etc. To deny the need for such groups seems to me to be a denial of the fact that we still live in a society where people still seize upon a particular human characteristic and then make all manner of assumptions about the qualities of that person. Would that it were not so and such groups were redundant rather than necessary!

    To describe such groups as exclusive seems pretty bizarre to me.a womans groups as exclusive seems absolutely bizarre to me, For example, when women come together to discuss issues that relate to women, the group will include women of colour, women with different nationalities, women with disabilities, women who are straight or gay, trans gender and those from a range of different social classes and backgrounds, and it is simply not true that there are issues that are not particular to women.

    Just to take one example that you used earlier, men who bottle feed their baby do not face the discrimination faced by a breast feeding women. They do not risk being told that they should remove themselves from public view and feed their child in a lavatory, they are not told when they assert that breast feeding is natural that so is having one’s bowels open but it is not acceptable to do it in public etc. Trying to fit a career, let alone keep to a timetable when one is also a slave to the demands of an egotistical little howler is stress personified.

    Research evidence shows that even when women have a job, or is the main bread winner, the burden of household chores and child care is still shouldered by them. Inequality is rooted in both social structures and attitudes and as Professor Gillian Robinson of the University of Ulster argues, until women have equality at home, they are unlikely to achieve the same opportunities as men in the workplace.

    I wish LDW every success. We need more women in politics who understand what it is to be a woman, not through reading books but through living the experience of being a woman in modern Britain. If that means that a few men feel excluded, tough. I know plenty of men who understand the need for such a group and who have no problem with it at all ,and as far as I am concerned their views carry more weight because they are clearly more sensitive to the reality of womens ‘ lives.

  • Richard Dean 1st Jul '14 - 11:31pm

    “Just to take one example that you used earlier, men … do not risk being told that they should remove themselves from public view and feed their child in a lavatory … not acceptable to do it in public etc.”

    But men who do not share these prejudices and damages do need to know that they happen and how common they are and what best to do in the way of defence and support when they do happen.

  • Alice Thomas 1st Jul '14 - 11:36pm

    Richard – you seem to have missed the start of my article, when I explained that I was writing about LDW training in response to criticism, not simply ‘making a fuss’; you also seem to have missed the entire second half of my article, which explains why training aimed at women should be women-only.

  • Richard Dean 1st Jul '14 - 11:43pm

    @Alice Thomas. Well, that’s what you get for that kind of headline! And for hiding what you are on about in hundreds words of unreadable “fluff”, to use your terminology.

  • Richard Dean 1st Jul '14 - 11:52pm

    @Alice Thomas. So I guess we’ve just proved it’s true – men are from Mars and women from Venus! 🙂

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '14 - 8:15am

    Richard – the headline is a quote from the previ

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '14 - 8:16am

    Richard – the headline is copied from a post from the previous comment thread, so if you find it dramatic please take it up with the man who wrote it.

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '14 - 8:18am

    Apologies for the double comment – resp

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '14 - 8:18am

    Responding on a small screen is creating technological problems, as you can see.

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Jul '14 - 9:18am

    @ Richard Dean,
    Richard, I am simply gibing an example from earlier in the thread to demonstrate that women have experiences that are not experienced by men.

    No you don’t need to now how often this sort of thing happens, and you don’t need training in how to respond. If you don’t know how to respond when a woman has been publicly humiliated, no amount of training will change that.

    However, just to provide you with a little reading matter ( fluff), it has been illegal to ask breast feeding women t public
    to leave public spaces since 2010. However, laws do not necessarily change attitudes and occasionally the stories of women who have been asked to leave reach the press. These are the tip of the iceberg. Women like myself who over the years have supported women’s right to feed their babies in public have been called called ‘Lactivists’ and ‘Feminazis’.

    If we can move on from women’s breasts, it is not just womens’ different biology that causes them to be treated differently, we are judged differently, not by all men, and sometimes by women. I have just read a piece by Beverley Turner in the Daily Telegraph, ‘ My children hate me going to work so why do I do it” Try reading the comments that follow an article like that. Feel the guilt, Richard!

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Jul '14 - 9:44am

    Jayne, that is a good comment and the Telegraph article is a prime example of guilt tripping women, it is similar to how I feel about the subliminal messages sent from the Guardian.

    You see, I could be a strong ally for feminist causes, because I hate such messages, I just don’t want to fight sexism with sexism, which is why I feel the need to criticise the left too.

    Check out this for the lead article on the US liberal left website at the moment:

    http://www.salon.com/2014/07/01/feminism_is_a_sexual_strategy_inside_the_angry_online_mens_rights_group_red_pill/

    It boils male anger down to “something really pretty simple: the toxic belief that sex is something that men must get from women.”. It’s just ridiculous! I had to email them a polite complaint once I read it.

    I’m against these extreme men’s rights activists too. I’ll prove it one day and fight for women’s causes with as much passion. It’s one of the reasons why I’m in favour of press regulation.

  • @ Jayne Mansfield
    I agree that we deal with the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be, which is why I applaud the existence of groups such as LDW / BAME / LGBT+ and I’m 100% behind their efforts to a) increase representation and b) address issues around ongoing discrimination in society. That doesn’t mean I can’t sometimes raise questions or criticisms about the approach taken.

    We’re not (as far as I’m aware) talking about the existence of LDW but rather the existence of training sessions which are women-only and which therefore, by definition, exclude some people based on gender. My point was that I’m not sure how people would feel about a BAME-only / LGBT+-only event. Like I said, I honestly don’t know – perhaps the general reaction would be that it’s fine. I’m not sure how I’d feel about being told I wasn’t welcome in the room because I’m white or because I’m straight. Conversely, I’m also not sure how I’d feel if I were gay and invited to an LGBT+ event where my sexuality was my passport through the door. I’m also not sure how I’d feel about attending an event where I was only allowed in because I’m female. My inner liberal reacts equally badly to all the above, but I get the (perhaps incorrect) impression that others are more accepting of a female-only event than the other examples for some reason.

    Fair point about breast vs bottle feeding. That, and the clothing advice, are the only things that I can actually agree apply only to women. But as I said above breast-feeding / pregnancy are not relevant to all women and I would be very unimpressed to be specifically offered baby-related advice just because of my gender. (Even the clothing advice cuts both ways. Yes, we have more choice and therefore more pressure, but we also have a hell of a lot more freedom in what to wear. If a man wants to wear anything besides a suit he’s screwed.)

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '14 - 10:16am

    Catherine – I understand the point that many women do not have or want children. To be clear, the training sessions we offer at conference do not prescribe topics for discussion, because we know women of different ages, ethnicities and experience will face different problems. No woman will be given unwanted advice on pregnancy or breast-feeding, even as it relates to her political life, unless she asks. The aim of the sessions is to give any woman who does want to ask those questions the space to do so.

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '14 - 10:43am

    Catherine, Richard – I’d also like to point to something which has come up in a few posts: I appreciate that, just because a training session is aimed at women it does not automatically follow that it should be set up to exclude men. I do believe, as I said in the article, that if “men who are just interested” might “gain from sitting in the back of one of these sessions and hearing about the difficulties their female colleagues deal with.”

    However, as I set out in the second part of the article letting men into the sessions would have an observation bias effect: some women with complaints, important questions about their safety, or personal questions about something like how to deal with menopause or breast-feeding, would not feel comfortable asking those questions in front of men. That would undermine the whole point of the training.

    There are still plenty of other opportunities for interested men to engage with LDW at conference – the LDW booth and fringe events to name two – and I would recommend attending a fringe event if you are a man interested in learning more the problems faced by women in the party.

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '14 - 10:47am

    Mini-corrections – *that “men who are just interested” and *learning more about the problems

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Jul '14 - 11:13am

    @ Catherine,
    Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    I think that your lack of certainty is widespread amongst sensitive souls who are just trying to get through life doing no harm and hopefully doing some good by opposing prejudice and unfair treatment whenever wheresoever it rears its ugly head , and in my experience the uncertainty never goes away, if anything it seems to increase with age!

    Your impression that people are more accepting of female only groups than of other groups may be correct, I’m not sure!
    I has been my experience those who oppose female only groups are the same people who argue against other groups who feel the need for space to discuss matters that they feel are unique to them.

    If people who do not belong to the dominant, white, male, Christian grouping in our society ( Just look at the front bench in parliament), feel that society does not offer them a fair deal and judges them more harshly, and there is evidence of this, ( the you must be twice as good as a girl if you wish to succeed, you must be twice as good as a black person to succeed etc. phenomenon), I am not prepared to devalue their experience nor their efforts to rectify the situation. If that means that I can’t turn up to certain events, so be it.

    I too would be upset if I was given unwanted baby feeding advice or pregnancy advice. The whole point of groups such as women’s groups if that they do not make the assumptions about women that are frequently made by the public at large- including may I add, that women will choose to have a child, and that a woman who chooses not to do so is abnormal.

    I don’t agree with you that breast feeding and clothing are the only things that apply to women. I have already mentioned the division of labour within the domestic sphere and amongst other things, I would argue that men do not feel the level of guilt experienced by women when they have children and also work outside the home. Women were not born feeling guilty, where did this guilt come from?

    Hannah would be able to explain how inequality for women works in our society far better than I. I’ve hung up my ( purple) Doc Martins and I’m off out to lunch with a group of female friends. Its wonderful, our shared experiences as women mean that we can we can talk in ‘shorthand’ and understand each other perfectly. We keep each other sane in the face of Martian incomprehension from our husbands and help each other to develop strategies on how to cope with it.

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Jul '14 - 12:08pm

    @Catherine 2nd Jul ’14 – 9:50am
    “I’m not sure how people would feel about a BAME-only / LGBT+-only event. Like I said, I honestly don’t know – perhaps the general reaction would be that it’s fine. I’m not sure how I’d feel about being told I wasn’t welcome in the room because I’m white or because I’m straight. Conversely, I’m also not sure how I’d feel if I were gay and invited to an LGBT+ event where my sexuality was my passport through the door. I’m also not sure how I’d feel about attending an event where I was only allowed in because I’m female.”

    You’re talking about an organisation that only allows people through the door because they subscribe to a given political party, so selection occurs either way. Therefore the problem is not with selection based on elective membership but with selection based on less mutable characteristics, and I would agree with you that this is a worrying place to find oneself. However, I would, as mentioned above, draw a distinction between availability of access in general and an access-all-areas policy operative at all times.

    To use an obvious metaphor, swimming pools cannot usefully support large numbers of lane swimmers practicing for the swimathon at the same time as supporting large numbers of parents supporting their child’s first tentative attempts at figuring out how to float. So you get ‘mixed’ sessions, ‘parent and child’ sessions and separate sessions where the pool is fully laned.

    In the LDW ‘swimming pool’, one might imagine there is a good argument for specific sessions with all sorts of participants: ‘how to be more accessible across genders and backgrounds’ with a general audience, ‘frank, honest discussions between women about stuff they are currently experiencing’ with a between-women-in-similar-situations audience, perhaps ‘being a parent in politics, with people who have, or are considering having, families’, and so forth. Clearly some of these are appropriate for broader audiences than others, being tied to gender identity or elective action or a shared interest in making the party more welcoming across genders or backgrounds . And you can’t have all those conversations in a single session on the grounds of sheer practicality.

    Nobody is denying the ability of people of any gender to ‘swim’ in the ‘pool’; they’re just saying that occasionally a few of them might wish to book the pool for a more focused session. That could become controversial under some circumstances, yes ( Daily Mail headlines on Muslim-males-only swimming come to mind) but it’s not clear to me that LDW as it currently stands would be one of those cases.

    I agree with you that it can be terribly hurtful when groups focus too much on sessions that exclude participants and I hope that LDW will not permit themselves to get into the (hurtful, ‘patriarchal’) mindset of habitually excluding men as the ‘other’, but from the article above and the responses in this thread it seems to me that they are unlikely to make that mistake.

  • Richard Dean 2nd Jul '14 - 2:21pm

    @Jayne Mansfield
    I’m afraid I am not feeling any guilt. Alice’s “observational bias” seems illuminating; I think what is being discussed here is how to overcome shyness rather than anything else. I’m not sure why women would be shy about asking an important question about safety, or why the training sessions cover the menopause; perhaps I should attend a training session to find out.

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Jul '14 - 3:10pm

    @Richard Dean
    Is it important to know why people with wildly divergent life experiences than yourself want to talk to each other about stuff of no relevance to you? 🙂

    But by all means go to an appropriate LDW session and ask… I imagine someone will be happy to discuss it. Curiosity is not a bad thing.

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Jul '14 - 4:35pm

    @ Richard Dean,
    I would be more concerned about the Hawthorne effect rather than observational bias.

    Anyway, as far as I am concerned one can come up with hypothetical situations until the cows come home, it seems that LDW offers a safe place where women can share their anxieties and offer mutual support, thus helping other women overcome barriers to success in politics. It is clearly a group that seeks to do good whilst harming no one and they shouldn’t have to justify their behaviour to anyone. Their aims are commendable.

    Dr Pack appears to have been welcomed into the bosom of this ‘Monstrous Regiment of Women’, and what is more, he has survived the experience. Perhaps he has some survivor tales to tell!

    @ Alice Thomas,
    Good luck with the group. If you feel that you could face it, I would love to read a future update on how LDW is progressing.

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '14 - 4:52pm

    Richard – it is a little more complicated than shyness, although for some women that will be the reason (and if you could wait for my next article, which will be on the role LDW has in turning women members into activists and candidates I’ll talk about that in more detail).

    Here are a couple of reasons why I believe many women prefer not to ask these questions in front of men:
    1. The questions arise from personal information, that they would not share with any man they do not know well, and they generally want to restrict to an audience they know will be sympathetic. Take your comment on menopause, which rather proves my point. It is hard for you to understand why that may affect a woman’s ability to be a candidate, but it might as I know from questions I’ve heard in some sessions; and any woman going through that is unlikely to want to discuss personal details of her hot flushes with someone in the room who doesn’t see the point. This is often the reason women will happily discuss policy in the abstract in mixed events but but would not discuss their personal questions.
    2. They do not want to derail a general training event. Rather like this thread, emotions can run high about gender differences and women often fear being shouted down, judged or ignored if they raise personal issues that men in the room consider irrelevant. The flip side of this, as I said in the article, is that some men will react to a question about, for example, how to handle sexual harassment as if it is a personal attack upon them or is a general attack on all men, (neither of which is the intention of any woman who raises it, in my experience).

    In any case, the reasons why are irrelevant except to the extent that we should be tackling attitudes and behaviour that prevents women speaking up. What matters is that some women do feel this way, and as long as that is the case, the party is better off providing a space for them to ask questions than saying they should change how comfortable they feel.

  • Richard Dean 2nd Jul '14 - 7:43pm

    @Alice.
    It is not hard for me to understand the effects of menopause, nor is it hard for any man. But if women choose not to discuss it with men, they must also accept the consequence, which is that more men won’t understand or be sympathetic. If women don’t argue against being shouted down at meetings, then the problem won’t be solved, and women will continue to be shouted down at meetings! Political struggles aren’t always dignified.

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '14 - 8:44pm

    Richard – again, there is a sensible division to be made between policy and practicality here. Absolutely women should discuss the issues that affect them in mixed groups, and challenge anyone who shouts them down and that can be done in abstract policy discussion forums. Some women will be happy to do that using personal examples. But when a woman wants a practical question answered she is probably not interested in starting an internal struggle over that issue; she simply wants an answer so she can get on with whatever other policy or campaign concerns brought her to the party in the first place. There is plenty of space for both within the party and women’s only training sessions allow space for the latter.

  • David Allen 2nd Jul '14 - 10:01pm

    Alice,

    Basically I sympathise with what you’re saying. The question that occurs to me – and I can’t easily answer it – is – in that case, what should we think about male-only groups?

    My perspective is, I’m an engineer. So, typically at a professional meeting or the accompnying social event, there may be 1 or 2 women out of 10 people. Sometimes by simple chance, there are none. When that happens, there are always a few of the men who rejoice. I find that a bit sad and off-putting personally – though I’d have to say that apart from perhaps a bit more swearing, in my experience at any rate, not a great deal then really changes. We don’t all race off to a strip club, though maybe others do…

    I guess my tentative conclusion is, single-sex groups have their place, but there are questions they should ask themselves. For men, why exactly do some men feel liberated by not having to talk to women, and is that healthy? For women … well, I’d be interested what women might think are the questions they should ask of themselves.

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Jul '14 - 10:25pm

    @David Allen
    Yeah, what you’re describing there is the sausagefest or its female analogue 🙂 That’s what I meant above when I said that there is a ‘harmful’ mindset of exclusion in which the exclusion of ‘others’ becomes seen as a positive benefit to be cherished. And certainly that is a risk.

    There are probably some good reasons for engineers to want to have single-sex meetings by design (as opposed to coincidence of numbers and roles) but it shouldn’t, unless one of those reasons is firmly in place, be something to celebrate. It’s probably the difference between ‘we actually need to have this meeting with just these people in it, because of Insert Good Reason Here’ and ‘let’s just not invite them along’. The question to ask might be quite similar between genders, ethnic groups etc: ‘are we just taking the lazy solution?’ If there is no progress or variation and you end up with a stable or increasing apartheid between, for example, ‘engineer gents’ in Meeting Room A and ‘engineer ladies’ in Meeting Room B, then the answer is probably ‘yes’.

  • David Allen 2nd Jul '14 - 11:10pm

    Daft haporth – just to clarify, the situations I’m describing arise by sheer chance. Somebody organises a working group to address technical issue X. Ten companies send a rep along. Sometimes there may be several women, sometimes none, engineering being rather male-dominated. Nobody ever says “women not welcome”. But when it so happens that no women turn up, some men rejoice. That’s what I am describing – there is no conspiracy or planning, but in terms of mental attitudes, I think there can still be something of an issue.

  • Alice Thomas 3rd Jul '14 - 12:00am

    David – The situations simply aren’t analogous. In one, exclusion happens by choice, in set limits, to allow for a freer discussion of specific issues faced by the included interest group; externally to that the women who attend our sessions have no problem engaging with men and most will attend many other events at conference where there are far more men than women.

    In your example, the exclusion happens by culture (because somewhere between school and engineering careers, a few links are broken that mean fewer women attempt and succeed in those careers than men), and the issues being discussed are not related to the interests of the included group in any way, because the engineering solution you are seeking is not a gender issue. In that environment, anyone expressing a desire to exclude any group on irrelevant grounds – basically anything other than their ability to engineer, including gender, race, age or sexuality – is simply prejudiced.

    If you could show me that men have specific issues that women are not affected by, that these issues negatively affect their ability to advance in politics, and that there is value in a mens-only space to address them, I would support a mens-only training session.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 12:01am

    @David Allen
    Yes, I understand… It’s something I see regularly in comp sci, where there’s a slight tendency for people to respond less professionally as a consequence (insert crude stereotype of developers as sometimes socially awkward young chaps looking for an identity with which to identify). The point at which it becomes intensely problematic is the point at which it becomes self-reinforcing (‘not going to a meeting with that lot…’) 🙂

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 12:08am

    @David Allen
    On consideration, I will add that I’m not sure that single-sex meetings are quite as much a matter of chance as is sometimes suggested. It’s not uncommon for skilled individuals to be overlooked in selection processes because they do not fit the convener’s mental image of ‘An Expert In Summat’. A different issue and of little relevance to this thread in all probability, but I mention it in passing nonetheless.

  • David Allen 3rd Jul '14 - 12:37am

    Daft H: Yes, but life’s complex. Certainly I’ve seen what looks to me like semi-conscious discrimination against women both in politics and engineering (“does not look like expert, because experts should be aged and/or bearded etc”). In engineering at any rate however, one also sometimes sees the opposite, women progressing by making effective use of their rarity value and/or their ability to charm the opposite sex. The latter is sometimes just natural and unforced, sometimes deliberate and exploitative (example Rebekah Brooks!)

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 1:25am

    @Alice Thomas
    “If you could show me that men have specific issues that women are not affected by, that these issues negatively affect their ability to advance in politics, and that there is value in a mens-only space to address them, I would support a mens-only training session.”

    One such issue could be erectile dysfunction. It’s something like the male version of the menopause. Can make men very irritable, even guilty, ashamed, frustrated, etc, and definitely can be embarrassing in some doorstep situations, even for a candidate if the Sun finds out. Yes, a space to address the psychological issues can help, thanks.

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd Jul '14 - 5:31am

    Oh for goodness sake.

    If there wasn’t a practical problem there would be no need to find a practical solution, and if there are those who feel that LDW is not the correct solution, they should investigate the underlying cause- but not expect women to hang around accepting the status quo in the meantime.

    There has been some jocularity regarding the idea that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus but research has shown this to be a myth. If anyone is interested in unravelling a few myths ( including why engineering requires a male brain), I suggest they google, ‘What language barrier’. The Guardian. It is the first of three extracts from a book by Professor Deborah Cameron, Professor of language at Oxford University.

    @ Dave Allen,
    The article might go some way to explain some of the questions that this thread has raised in your mind, e.g. why Medicine ( caring)and Veterinary Surgery (caring) are now seen as legitimate career goals for females with excellent science A levels whereas Engineering remains male dominated.

  • Alice Thomas 3rd Jul '14 - 8:16am

    Richard – your example meets the first test, and potentially the third, but not the second. There is no situation in which erectile disfunction negatively affects a man’s ability to be a political candidate; lack of an erection is not a practical hindrance to appearing professional. Hot flushes can be. An all-male erectile disfunction support group might help such men, but it is not the party’s job to provide it.

    (I do not accept that a candidate would lose votes or even that the press would run a story about erectile disfunction, any more than they would about menopause, because these are natural and common issues that don’t prevent anyone’s ability to be a candidate, as long as any psychological or physical effects are managed properly.)

  • David Allen 3rd Jul '14 - 9:07am

    Oh for goodness sake. Never did I say “engineering requires a male brain”. It doesn’t. I have also acknowledged that LDW have every right to exist and have a useful role to fulfil. I have also acknowledged that males can behave badly and in a discriminatory way. Women can also behave badly, by the way.

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd Jul '14 - 10:36am

    @ David Allen,
    I am sorry if I expressed myself badly and it seemed that I was criticising something that I am well aware that you did not say.
    In fact, I Was interested in what you had to say about the lack of females in engineering, and your observation that other engineers express gratitude when they are relieved of the effort of communicating with women, the article actually deals with the sort of comment that might cause girls to think that engineering might not be for them because of the messages they are given. The nonsense about a male and female brain comes from the article.

    Once more apologies if I upset you, I just thought you might find the article interesting in light of your own concers

    My exclamation of oh for goodness sake stands. I cannot believe that in a so called progressive party, any objection can be raised when women identify a problem and seek to solve it. my point is that those who criticise should. Do something positive and offer solutions that have led to the the fundamental problem.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 10:47am

    @David Allen
    It is all too common for individuals to feel pushed in the direction that their gender ‘suggests’, even within that field. It takes a strong-willed individual to persist, and understandably (if inadvisably in the longer run and from a broader perspective) some people will choose to use, rather than challenge, existing prejudices. That’s an organisational failure mode, albeit a functional one, and it can be amended.

    You could probably count Rebekah Brooks as a social engineer, I guess. Not sure that’s a gender-specific thing so much as a phenomenon common to many of those who feel little respect for the general population.

    @Jayne
    ‘Men Are From Mars’ is a scaffold built to reinforce the mindsets of lazy thinkers, which is a smart business move since as it turns out there is a large audience ready to spend a few quid for a little spurious validation from the self-help shelf. The author of the book in question got his PhD from Columbia Pacific University, which was shut down by California court order in 2000 for reasons including giving out dodgy diplomas such as PhD degrees without ensuring that the requirements were fulfilled. The book in question is a triumph of marketing but has no greater validity than any other uninformed bumbling. Instead of reading a John Gray book, it’s cheaper and easier to assemble your gender theory out of the lyrics you hear when your iPod plays Now That’s What I Call 1953 on random shuffle.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 12:42pm

    @Alice Thomas
    Oh, lovely, now a woman who has no experience of erectile dysfunction is telling all men how they all feel about it. Thanks a million. You won’t mind then if men make similar disrespectful remarks about hot flushes, the menopause, breastfeeding, and that women are best left at home to do the housework and look after the kids.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Jul '14 - 1:11pm

    Richard, you seem to be looking for an argument. I know I can talk, but at least I try to get it over with and look for reconciliation, rather than keep prodding for ages until the person runs out of patience.

    I’m going to try to be more tolerant towards those who disagree with me, so maybe we can all improve!

    Regards

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 1:14pm

    @Richard Dean
    For goodness’ sake, if you think erectile dysfunction is a burning issue for male would-be politicians then get out there and set up Lib Dem Men. The World Is Your Oyster. If you can get some folks interested in signing up there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t build a support group on that or any other issue. That’s what the people who wrote this thread did; are you saying you can’t do that too? Why do you feel you should ride on their coat-tails instead of doing the same thing yourself?

    Then if you find the party won’t support you in that, then you can write articles on LDV explaining what happened. And I have no doubt people would be appropriately sympathetic. If it were to happen, which, in all honesty, is very difficult to imagine.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 1:34pm

    @daft h’a’porth
    Alice asked for an issue. I gave her one. She then demonstrated an attitude that she criticises when men have it about women, but seems to approve of when women have it towards men. I then commented on that. I could say now, for example, that men seem to handle this kind of issue without going to the huge trouble of setting up a group to do it, so why can’t women handle their personal issues without a group? However, …

    @Eddie Sammon
    Following your wise and experience-based advice, I will instead await Alice’s approach at “reconciliation”, and will respond appropriately when it is offered.

  • Serious point, without intending to belittle gender-specific problems of any gender: Medical professions are concerned that patients are very careful about dosages of medicines used to relieve erectile dysfunction (such as Viagra or Cialis (Tadalafill) ) because it is possible to overdose. Symptoms of overdose include facial flushing, back pain, nasal congestion and indigestion. It is also possible to have a very prolonged erection – sometimes for two weeks. All those symptoms would make it difficult to speak in public.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 2:14pm

    @Richard Dean
    Since you yourself feel no support is required for the issue in question, I suggest you come up with an example you yourself view as more relevant, or leave it be.

    Nice for you that you feel so self-reliant and in no need of support. Yes, you could make the statement you propose. Your suggestion that it is possible to adequately summarise the coping strategies of entire genders in one sentence happens to be utter and blatant cobblers, so I wouldn’t bother if I were you, but it’s a free universe, so what the hey.

    I will say this: belittling others for having different coping strategies (and experiences) is ignoble.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 2:22pm

    @Paul Walter
    I don’t disagree that there are specific topic areas that all-male sessions may choose to discuss…

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd Jul '14 - 2:29pm

    @ daft h’a’ porth.
    The article I mention by Professor Cameron actually points out the the Men are from Mars and women are from Venus argument is a myth and bases her argument on research evidence, so I though that Richard who used it in his discussion with Alice might find the article interesting.

    Indeed everything that you say in your post is confirmed in the article.

    Thank you.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 2:35pm

    @Daft h’p’orth
    Why the bile? All I did was provide a relevant response to Alice’s question. There are certainly other things that can affect men, medically (eg.prostate cancer) and socially (including shyness, panic attacks, napping, blackouts, attention loss), and while not all of these are necessarily men-only issues, many might be most comfortably shared in men-only environments.

    Erectile dysfunction is a relatively common problem, particularly for men over about 40. It’s as natural as the menopause, though probably not as certain to occur. It has effects that can be difficult in campaigning situations. Self-help groups can help, both in terms of sharing information and in terms of emotion and psychology.
    http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Erectile-dysfunction/Pages/Introduction.aspx

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 2:56pm

    @Jayne Mansfield
    It’s a very good article…

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 2:59pm

    Humour is dead?

  • I basically agree with Alice and with many of the commentors both for and against, however:

    I think if there are topics/subjects that have aspects that are relevance to particular gender then gender specific training sessions are appropriate. However, this doesn’t mean that the entire topic/subject is somehow only for relevant to one or other gender or that single gender training should become the norm.

    I also think that we need to step away from the idea that just because much of the ‘world’ including politic’s is and has been for many years male dominated and hence become “male space” that the appropriate response is to create “female only spaces” in the mistaken idea that this will somehow change the “male space”, it won’t. What will change those spaces is for women to be sufficiently confident and numerous to also occupy those spaces.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 3:55pm

    @Roland
    Working towards a gender-twisted variation on the status quo (women only spaces, men only spaces) would be pretty much equivalent to saying ‘okay, then, we’ll build our own patriarchy (and you’re not invited)’. Few people want that. An important point about this is that the ‘women only training session’ is not an outcome in itself, but a small step down the road towards the outcome you describe in your last sentence. The ultimate goal is not establishment of ‘female only spaces’; it’s just part of the construction process.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Jul '14 - 4:19pm

    Hi Daft, but I think Roland does make a good point. I have thought in the past that some women writing so much about feminism is actually reinforcing male domination in debates about things such as economics, crime, immigration and defence. We need more women to move into these areas.

    I am glad that Alice is going to finish her series on this subject, I just wanted to back up Roland’s post, which I thought was a good one.

  • David Allen 3rd Jul '14 - 4:58pm

    To reiterate, I think women do well to create “women only spaces”, which have a useful function. I think the same can sometimes apply to men (though probably not within a political party – as is noted above, there are certainly such things as men’s issues, but their specific relevance to political campaigning is pretty tenuous).

    However, it’s clear several of us also share a degree of reservation about “certain-people only” spaces. Perhaps the downside can be illustrated by reference to another space, “Lib Dem only” space.

    I last recall the magical effects of Lib Dem only space while listening to Baroness Liz Barker address Regional Conference. Our speaker created a magical bubble, within the cosy confines of a small hall, in which principles, integrity, gentle humour and a selective record of party achievements created an obvious warm glow throughout her audience. While the spell lasted, one wouldn’t have believed that we could be languishing in the polls, that we could be the least loved of all Britain’s political parties outside our own environment.

    Groups are necessary and often valuable. But beware group-think, beware self reinforcing self-justification, beware assuming all your critics are nutters just because some of them do say strange things, beware arrogant dismissal of all those outside the group. Lib Dem – only groups should certainly beware. Men – only groups should certainly beware. Women too.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 5:02pm

    Hi Eddie, good to see you posting again, hope you’re feeling better. Interesting point, although I’m not quite sure I totally understand.Is the suggestion that the existence of women who write about feminism tends to reinforce male domination in other areas? (What is the mechanism?) Or is the suggestion that women who write about feminism should consider putting effort into these other debates instead?

    Agreed – I’m also looking forward to Alice’s next post 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Jul '14 - 5:16pm

    Hi Daft, thanks. No women should write about feminism and women’s rights, I am just saying an excessive focus on this topic, unless it is your job or something, will by its nature reinforce male dominance in other areas because we need women to be reading and analysing things such as the economy and foreign policy.

    It is linked to Roland’s post because if there are too many women only training sessions then men will find something else to do and it risks just creating new gender roles.

    Regards 🙂

  • Alice Thomas 3rd Jul '14 - 5:25pm

    Richard – Paul has now given examples of how erectile disfunction medication might, in some circumstances, affect a man’s ability to appear professional in a political context, which I can appreciate, and as I said if you could show me it affects enough men and requires a men’s only space for discussion I would support that. This whole discussion, though, is dragging us further away from the purpose of the article which was never to say that women are the only group with special interests, but rather to explain how they are well served by women’s only training, something which you have repeatedly denied is necessary or useful.

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd Jul '14 - 5:42pm

    @ Eddie Sammon,
    Welcome back Eddie. I won’t mention the ‘F’ word until after the watershed!

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Jul '14 - 5:48pm

    @Eddie Sammon
    I agree with you that if feminism in itself became the group focus and all other things went by the wayside, it would cease being a useful exercise 🙂 In other contexts I have seen this happen; a group becomes too closely identified with a certain topic and eventually it turns into a genre ghetto, which is quite difficult to escape.I would guess that LDW participants are likely to be active elsewhere in the party doing all sorts of other things, which would reduce the likelihood that this becomes a problem – maybe this is something that will be covered later in the series (maybe in ‘turning members into activists’)?

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 5:58pm

    @Alice. No, I have no repeated denied that. Reconciliation does not happen by further aggressive accusations.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 6:00pm

    :Alice. No, I have not repeatedly denied anything. Reconciliation does not happen by further aggressive accusations.

  • @daft ha’p’orth (3rd Jul ’14 – 3:55pm)
    I realised after posting the hole you saw, but your comment showed you got my point and I agree the important thing is that this isn’t an end in itself but an enabler and hence satisfies my first point about having relevance to a particular gender.

    There was a comment (sorry can’t seem to locate it – so could just be a figment of my misreading) that seemed to use the fact the world is male dominated as the only justification necessary for having female only spaces and hence a “gender-twisted variation on the status quo” was an acceptable outcome, something I disagree with.

  • Alice Thomas 3rd Jul '14 - 10:27pm

    Richard – apologies, as you are right. That sentence should read ‘questioned whether’ not ‘denied’; the purpose of my comment was to try to draw the comment thread back to the original discussion point – women’s training – rather than to continue the tangent and I hope we can now do that.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 11:58pm

    @Alice. Ok, let’s be friends. I apologize for any offence caused, but I do retain my democratic right to question things, even in situations in which I am both ignorant and uninvolved.

  • Joshua Dixon 4th Jul '14 - 12:11pm

    Not sure if its been mentioned above, or if I missed it, but I just wanted to point out that some men, trans men in particularly, can actually become pregnant and give birth.

    Great piece though and good luck in your work 🙂

  • Sorry for commenting and vanishing but thanks for the thoughtful replies! And thanks to Alice for the clarification re. pregnancy advice only being offered to women who actually ask for it, that’s good to know.

    This has been an interesting and thought-provoking thread, which probably concludes in agree-to-disagree territory. I think part of the reason I feel so uncomfortable with this topic (apart from the principle of it) is that if I found myself in a specifically women-only room I would feel that I had to behave differently – for some of the reasons given above. I’d feel I had to be careful what I say in a way that I wouldn’t normally (not that I usually go around swearing at people or anything but you know what I mean!) and I’d feel expected to care more about certain issues because I’m a woman. I know that’s not the intention of these events, and maybe it’s a moot point because such an event wouldn’t attract someone like me to attend anyway, but it’s a likely by-product. I accept that having men in the room might make some of the women present feel constrained in some way, but having no men present (on purpose) might make others of the women feel constrained in different ways.

    On a side note, I think the idea of training sessions or a support group specifically for LD parents / prospective parents is a fantastic idea. Men face just as many issues around family-work balance as women – anyone remember the criticisms and insults directed at Charles Kennedy when he took time off during the 2005 campaign because his son was born? If breast-feeding mothers found it useful to have a support group just for them I’d support that too. In fact, anything where a certain group of people have a specific thing in common and want to talk about it in private sounds fine to me, it’s the lumping together of all women/men/lesbians/Asians/whatever that I don’t like.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Jul '14 - 9:44pm

    @ Catherine,
    We seem to have been drawn all sorts of alleyways during this thread and it has been very enlightening.

    I don’t know what you mean by ‘lumping people together’. I assume that women will choose to attend LDW meetings because they feel it has something to offer them that they don’t feel is fully addressed in existing groups, or that there are some things that they don’t feel comfortable discussing or disclosing in mixed meetings. Therefore it will be their choice, just as it is your choice not to attend. When one holds this view, it seems appropriate that posters advertising LDW existence are given more prominence so that more women can make that choice. If women attend and find that it doesn’t meet their needs or they feel that a woman only meeting is constraining or uncomfortable, they are able to exercise the choice and say ‘Its not for me’ and not attend again.

    There are some posters who have reservations about LDW and/or its need to exist. I am disappointed that in the 21st century it needs to exist too, but it seems that women have been listened to and there is a need for the existence of such a group. I doubt that women who spend most of their lives operating in the outside world are seeking a form of self- imposed apartheid, just help and support so that they can deal with barriers that prevent them from becoming successful politicians, a s was mentioned before, dealing with the world as it is, not as one might wish it to be.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGlenn 17th Nov - 12:40pm
    Peter Martin The energy suppliers are pretty much just billing services and barely even that as most of the actual meter reading is farmed out...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 17th Nov - 12:13pm
    Pursuing a legal challenge is sensible. Making it the big campaign issue to talk to the public about is not. Johnson has "Get Brexit Done"....
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 17th Nov - 12:07pm
    In case Alex Macfie or anyone else is remotely interested in facts - The evidence from pollsters is that, when the Lib Dems do not...
  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 17th Nov - 12:03pm
    "You can see the full results including all the STV tables here." Is not working for me.
  • User AvatarJoe Otten 17th Nov - 11:46am
    David Allen, yes I would go for equidistance from Hitler and Stalin. That's "from", not "between". They are much much closer to each other than...
  • User AvatarDuncan Hill 17th Nov - 11:32am
    Re: "The turnout was also quite small. Only about 10% of members took part which is, I think, a small improvement on 2017. The general...