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In Defence of Feminism…and Champagne!

1909
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A Prosecco Progressive argues that men and women, rich kids and poor kids, do not have the same chances in life.

Feminism is a word (obviously); but different words have different meanings to different people.  Language is flexible and can be perceived as having different connotations.  Essentially, feminism is about gender equality – a principle that I believe, and sincerely hope, most people would agree on.  (If you disagree then stop reading now and book yourself onto the next flight to Saudi Arabia – one way preferably).

Photo Credit: elsonpro via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: elsonpro via Compfight cc

However many people who agree with gender equality would not define themselves as a feminist.  This is because some people perceive feminism as being only about female quotas on BBC comedy shows, or complaining that Doctor Who never regenerates as a woman, or simply hating all men.  I don’t think this is the case, it is essentially about gender equality.  Let me be clear, we do not have gender equality in Britain today.

In the UK men and women have legal equality (largely, but with some exceptions) and women can be successful.  We’ve had J. K. Rowling, Carol Ann Duffy, and yes, even the devil-incarnate herself, Mrs T.  However, this does not mean that we have gender equality.  People can succeed on merit, but we will not have a meritocracy until we have equality of opportunity.

Why is it we have overwhelmingly more men than women in Parliament?  Why are there more men on company boards than women?  Not simply because most women have ‘different lifestyle choices’ I dare say…  Academic studies show that there are fewer women in the top political jobs, not because of ingrained systematic prejudice within the electorate – women have roughly the same electoral success rate as men – but because less women see themselves as candidates.

This dates back to a lack of women in positions of power historically, from the time when the establishment did bar women from becoming politicians.  A measure of positive discrimination can help create female role models and so more women will see themselves as the next prime minister, or chief executive of a large company.

Personally, I find that the word feminism is gender imbalanced and can sometimes alienate men and so I prefer to talk about gender equality.  I do not for a minute mean to say that problems that face men are on a par with the gender imbalance that affects women, nor to say that we should not fight alleviate sexism, but gender inequality can affect men also.

The issue of companies discriminating against women because they fear that they will take maternity leave is the other side of the coin of the issue that paternity leave is shorter.  Fathers’ rights and imbalance in the law regarding under-age sex should also be addressed.  These all stem from gender stereotypes that are often the root of the inequality that disadvantages women.  We all need feminism/gender equality to address these immoral imbalances.

The aim of feminism is genuine equality of opportunity so that everyone has the same chance to succeed.  We should also strive to achieve equality of opportunity for everyone regardless of socio-economic class.  This too does not exist.  People like Alan Sugar who have come from a poor background and done well for themselves are famous because they are the exception, not the norm.

To say that Britain is a genuine meritocracy is to be blind to the world around you.  However, trying to improve people’s life chances is not to be anti-luxury.  One can fight passionately for children from poor backgrounds to have the same opportunities as the ‘Eton in-crowd’, fight for social security for those 2,487,000 unemployed people who are competing for just 536,000 jobs (ONS), and fight to end the scourge of homelessness from our society while still enjoying the taste of Moet.

Whatever the merits of meritocracy (and that’s a whole different philosophical discussion), it does not exist in Britain today as we do not have genuine equality of opportunity.  Men and women, rich kids and poor kids, do not have the same chances in life.  Until that day comes, I will play by the rules of the game so that one day I can change the rules of the game to make them fairer.

I’ll do my bit by giving to and working for charity and by campaigning to get a government elected that will endeavour to help the poorest rather than punish them – but on my night off I think I’ll allow myself a cheeky bubbly beverage.

A Prosecco Progressive

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