When the Suffolk County Council LibDem Green and Independent Group was formed, I was appointed Group Spokesperson for Women. The first and only Group in this county to have one.
Interesting, because there IS no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.
So why am I spokesperson? Because there is no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.
Suffolk is not only a county in which it isn’t good to be a girl or woman, Suffolk is a county that is not even aware of the fact.
When I checked charity Plan International UK’s statistics last September and discovered Suffolk was a poor place to be a girl (in terms of important measures: Child Poverty, NEET, Teenage pregnancy, GCSEs and Life Expectancy) both Suffolk’s County Cabinet and officers were lost for words. It clearly was not the kind of info they collected. They have yet to get back to me as to what they will do about it.
Again, when I broke the news that 1 in 2 of 59 year old women were unpaid family carers (odds not shared by men until they were 75) this came as a complete surprise to those who represent the people of Suffolk. Despite the fact this will have a huge impact on working-aged women’s careers, incomes, life outcomes, and PENSIONS – and that too much of what is heard about #WASPI debate has been along the lines of “Diddums. Why shouldn’t you women expect to be equal to us men?” (Men, I ask you, why isn’t 1 in 2 of you a family carer at 59? Is it because you want a decent pension pot? Yes? Well, I have every sympathy. I want one too!).
Instead of addressing the inequity, the men who run Suffolk’s finances don’t notice it and underspend on the family carers’ budget to fund its social care programme…
When a former Mayor of Woodbridge was asked why there were no blue plaques to women in Woodbridge, he replied: “Maybe women have never done anything.” Really and truly. This in Woodbridge which is represented by a woman MP, a woman County Councillor, and currently, a woman Mayor.
Seems that Suffolk – nursery of those indomitable seekers after equality, Elizabeth and Millicent Garrett – is in need of a reminder that equality is still a long way off.
So how do we create equality?
– Part of this is making an end of female objectification. A good start would be universal application of my ‘Eric Pickles test ©“. It goes: Would that headline/ad/statement make sense if it was about Eric Pickles? That photo of a “wardrobe malfunction”? that clickbait where someone “shows off their new, toned beach body”? that fitness ad about “getting a pert and peachy derriere”? Does it sound silly with Eric there? Yes? Well then, leave women out of it too, thank you very much. It encourages disrespect and disregard.
– Part of it is pointing out inequality in any arena. I have spent several years tweeting Radio4’s Today programme about their inability to distinguish between sport and men’s sport. With final success, but only after years when for weeks on end the only female name mentioned in their sports reports was the mare running in the 3.40 at Lingfield.
Unimportant? Only if you’re wanting to sustain a narrative of male importance and female inconsequence. I’m afraid it was constant nagging that did the trick with Radio 4. Sloppy journos who just want to talk to their chums shouldn’t be allowed to set the agenda. Because, the agenda set , suddenly the narrative is, “nobody’s interested” (just like a playground bully saying “nobody likes you,”) – and blow me, fame and funding follow the narrative. The strongest woman in Britain lives in Melton. Did you even know that?
– Partly it is about defending the utter necessity for certain woman-specific provision. We can all dream of an equal society, but whilst 1 in 4 women experiences domestic violence, whilst one British woman is killed by a man – generally one she knows – every 2.4 days, women and children desperately need refuges, support, safe spaces for access, and the funding for all this. Any meninists protesting equality will not make these requirements less needful, less vital.
And all people – men and women – who believe in equality realise this as truth.
But without a woman to speak up for equality in the Suffolk administration – what happens to it? It is ‘assumed’ as existing without existing. The funding gets lost because the issue has no direct relevance to the men in charge – and the whole county suffers.
Sad but true.
And I am going to be here to carry on pointing it out, until the Suffolk administration realises this too.