Friday, 13 February 2015

patronised by Labour: what women want is not in a pink bus

Did you hear Harriet Harman on Woman's Hour the other day?

She was talking about the controversial 'pink' bus, which the Labour party is using to encourage women to vote, and, of course, to vote Labour. I've put 'pink' in inverted commas because Harriet says it's not pink. It's magenta.

So that's cleared that up then. Magenta is completely different to pink. How could we have been so silly?

The Labour party have got a good research team, and they have been conducting focus groups with core groups of women which the Labour party are trying to reach out to. Women like the supermarket workers Harriet went to meet, who were very concerned about the length of the summer holidays. According to Harriet, summer holidays are the length they are to best facilitate education; but they are problematic for working women, because of childcare issues, and because of expensive holidays, so we need to look at changing them to make it more convenient for employers.

NOOOO! I mean, maybe we need to change them, or just allow parents to take their children on holiday within the school year, or something, but why prioritise the needs of employers above the needs of families? Britain is increasingly woeful at prioritising the people, and helping businesses to run with people working, rather than flesh covered drones who need to accept zero hours contracts on appallingly low wages, have their benefits cut if they refuse to work any hours the employer fancies. Work isn't working with school, but that doesn't mean that we need to send kids to school more. School is not a holding facility for children. It's a place where children learn and grow, and they also do that outwith school, with the support of their families, when their families can afford to see them.

Sorry, where was I?

Labour's pink bus is designed to talk 'Woman to Woman' about politics, because apparently most women think politics is irrelevant to them, and that politicians have no idea how they live (I suspect that this view is not limited to women).

So, what are the key issues that the pink bus is designed to talk woman to woman about?

  • Domestic violence.
  • Child care, and 
  • Equal pay
Why these issues? Harriet says it's because they disproportionately affect women.

She has a point there. Most survivors of domestic violence are women. Most childcare is done by women, and women do not get equal pay with men.

However, is painting a bus pink the way to discuss these issues? The way to get these issues taken seriously? Is constantly talking about getting more child care the right way to increase the value of this useful work?

I would argue that while Labour insist that they must pander to the whims of employers, undermining the rights and security of paid workers and their families, and while they continue to harp on about child care, constantly undermining the value of caring work carried out in families, then women's role will continue to be undervalued. The caring, and organising role that women tend to play in families will remain taken for granted, and women will continue to be underpaid.

When women are out of the paid workforce for a while, they often take a pay cut on their return, while they get back up to speed. All the wonderful experience they have gained in those years should be taken into account. Similarly, men should be encouraged to take part more in family life, so that they value it more, and so that the playing field is somewhat levelled.

Employers don't like the concept of 4 weeks paternity leave and might not take on men of childbearing age for fear of it? Sounds familiar to me.

Other countries do paid/home work better. Let's learn from them instead of patronising women.

And while I'm ranting, domestic violence, childcare, and equal pay are not my top priorities.

In case you're wondering, Ms Harman, my top priorities are:
  • Ending the awful austerity policies, because they are not working, and checking what Keynes had to say on the matter.
  • Sorting out the benefits system to remove penalties, and ensure everyone has enough to get by on.
  • Sorting out the mess which is Curriculum for Excellence.
  • Working with the staff of the NHS to find the best way to make it fit for the world we live in now, and
  • NOT TALKING ABOUT IMMIGRATION ANYMORE because you're just pandering to the eejits in UKIP, and really you shouldn't give them the oxygen.
Let me know how you get on with that.