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I am woman, hear me whimper?

A #weeklyblogpost contribution.

Summary: If you’ve got something to contribute, DO IT. No excuses.
Last night I had an interesting conversation with Janet Davies and Dominic Campbell. Essentially, we identified that women were hideously unrepresented when it came to Life Peerages but that that merely reflect the gender imbalance within Parliament.
My reaction to Janet pointing this out was this:

janetedavis yeah. No. That’s not somewhere I’m prepared to ever go either. Behind. My place is behind.

And then followed swiftly by this:

janetedavis : and also, in that sentence I start to understand why women stay at home. Oh. :/

Janet mentioned that she kept hearing women say they didn’t want to stand out or speak or be on TV or in newspapers.

I do too. I am one of them. And it’s unforgivable really. Veering towards the pathetic when you think I have no childcare issues to take into (quite correct) consideration. I am not tied to a location and am not afraid to travel and be rootless. I believe fiercely and passionately in certain things and I can be utterly relentless when I get the bit between my teeth about an issue I connect with.

So why don’t I want to be an MP, or indeed a Councillor? Well, actually I do. In fact, more accurately, I did until a certain storm over mobile phone hacking happened. Because in order to be able to keep calm and carry on you have to have a certain level of resilience. Now I might come across as kind and fluffy and squee’ing around the edges but believe me I can be fearsomely cross if I believe it is justified. I will always concede if someone subsequently points out I’ve got the wrong end of the stick but I can more than stand up for myself thank you very much and if I think you’re consistently being an arse, I’ll just disengage entirely.

No.

It’s not that. It’s the fear. The fear of spectacularly failing and being crucified for it – see Diane Abbot for recent reference. The fear of being seen to not somehow being a woman because to become an MP is to admit by default you are ambitious and thirst for power – things I don’t identify with. I want to change a lot of things and am prepared to follow through on those things but power is merely a tool in order to do that, not something in itself to aspire to have. The fear of being visible is innate I think in a generation of girls brought up by parents to be seen and not heard. The fear of being unfashionable, of being ugly, of not being what people somehow expect of someone passionate and committed sits alongside this – comment on my brain all you like, call me an idiot and ill prepared or ill judged but don’t ever comment on how I look – I will wilt. The fear that if I were to become an MP that somehow all the enthusiasm and determination would be sapped by successive and endless arguments, directives and spin, all the reasons I thought I should be there in the first place sucked out from my brain and replaced with drudgery and hopelessness.

And I know not whether I am alone in this but I am not prepared to do that. I am not prepared to risk it. I am not prepared to be crucified and I am not prepared to be mocked nor jeered for my looks or my clothing. I am, instead, drawn to working in places where intelligence is valued, where passion is cherished and enthusiasm wanes momentarily before flaring once again.

That is behind. So while I my voice may have joined the masses of women stepping back and letting them men play out in front, I believe that this is the best decision for me. This is not a path I should ever walk down.

However, I would like to ask every one of my female readers – what are your reasons? Do you really not believe vehemently and relentlessly that you could make a difference? Is it childcare or hours? Spotlights or political complications?

Essentially, I want to know – why are we under represented and can we complain if the answer is ‘because we refuse’.

I refuse.


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Profile Photo Corey McCarren

Walk down toy aisles and you’ll see how society has created gender roles that are taught since birth. I know plenty of women that have a higher natural ability to reason than my own, and I’m not degrading myself in any way. I’m not going to pretend to be the next Einstein or Stephen Hawking, nor do I want to be. There are plenty of women that could and would be, though, if they weren’t socialized to think that their place is at home and people didn’t do everything in their power to bring the women that go for it down.

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Profile Photo Dorothy Ramienski Amatucci

I think there is something to be said for the fact that many women (I am speaking from U.S. experience only) are raised to not speak up. I also agree with Corey about toys. When I was a child, my mother did her best to purchase “gender neutral” toys, and I always wonder how much of an impact this had on both my brother and me.

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Profile Photo Peter Sperry

“to become an MP is to admit by default you are ambitious and thirst for power – things I don’t identify with. I want to change a lot of things and am prepared to follow through on those things but power is merely a tool in order to do that, not something in itself to aspire to have.”

This is not a gender specific attitude. It is also a very harmful attitude for our cival society. If well qualified individuals who recognize power is (or should be) merely a means to an end rather than an end in itself do not seek elective office, the void will be filled by those who do not recognize the distinction. At best they will be merely ineffective, having gained elective power without knowing what to do with it. At worst, they will do real harm, having gained the means to satisfy their personal agendas without regard to the public welfare. It is an irony of elective power that those who could use it well tend not to seek it and those would use it poorly persue it passionately. It is a dynamic which needs to be reversed.

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Profile Photo Rebecca Richardson

Good for you, Louise. I think it’s important to realise these things about yourself and I feel much the same way as you. Where I thrive is in the background, and I am happy for others do do the outward facing roles. Fear is a just one driving factor, but also, I think many women are ‘doers’ and are able to affect change at a grassroots level. They don’t need the accolades or the scrutiny.

I agree that many of the people who seek office and high level of authority are not the right people for the job. And I would love to see that change: but if it’s not me willing to be the change, then who will it be?

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