Written by Dotty Winters

In The News

Suffragette shitty

Edwina Currie thinks feminism is holding women back. Dotty Winters exercises her right to say something about that.

A parade for women's suffrage in New York City, 1912. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A parade for women’s suffrage in New York City, 1912. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Edwina Currie is quite a woman. When she sets out to achieve something she really delivers and I have to assume that in headlining her recent Telegraph article ‘It’s feminism that’s been holding women back’ she set out to infuriate and obfuscate rather than to inform. Great job Currie.

Perhaps we should be concerned she felt the need to do this, especially given that some people might read an article written by a politician in a broadsheet newspaper and assume that some level of fact-checking or logical integrity would exist. But everyone is entitled to a hobby, and politicians are second only to comedians in their need for constant attention. So, just for a moment Currie, you’ve got me. You have my undivided attention and like a very short fish, I am rising to the bait.

Let’s start with the rage-grabbing headline: “It’s feminism that’s been holding women back”. Feminism is the belief that everyone should have equal access to opportunities, regardless of gender, and a movement of people who are committed to promoting that principle. Like all movements there are a range of views and methods within the membership but if we attempt to define any group as though we could extrapolate from individual members, we could conclude that 90s pop sensations Eternal were a band made up of white, footballers’ wives. And that would be (1994 Eternal top 15 ‘hit’) CRAZY. I mention this because Currie starts her article by justifying her hatred of feminism by listing a whole two feminists that she doesn’t like.

“Currie wheels out some tired arguments about how feminists don’t want women to stay at home with babies, failing completely to understand that equality of opportunity requires both men and women to be able to stay at home with their children should they choose to do so.”

For brevity we’ll skip over Currie’s flawed assumption that feminism is solely, or even largely concerned with the promotion of women (rather than the progression of society as a whole, based on proven economic, health and community benefits resulting from fairer systems). Believing in equality can no more hold women back than believing in gravity prevents you from hovering three feet above the floor.

We can let her off the hook for not understanding what feminism means, can’t we? It’s not like she has the privilege of being well-educated, having the numbers of people who can probably double-check stuff for her, or being able to read books; plus it’s not like she is in a position of power and influence where this ignorance would matter, is it?

Emmeline Pankhurst in prison, holding women back as per bloody usual. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Emmeline Pankhurst in prison, holding women back as per bloody usual. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The main thrust of her argument is that self-belief is what holds women back and this is directly the fault of feminism, because its mere existence serves to inform women that the world is unfair and therefore prevents them from progressing.

She backs this up with a series of examples that prove the opposite. She cites John Lewis, a business that has equal representation of the genders among more junior members but experiences a drop-off in female representation as people progress. John Lewis is a great example of how equality can be achieved but the drop-off at more senior levels (while much less acute than other companies) may well be a symptom of structural bias rather than, as Currie implies, evidence that women simply don’t want senior roles.

Currie also wheels out some tired arguments about how feminists don’t want women to stay at home with babies, failing completely to understand that equality of opportunity requires both men and women to be able to stay at home with their children should they choose to do so, without being penalised for this in terms of promotions, opportunity or salary.

This argument is especially corrosive because it fails to acknowledge the many women who don’t want to or can’t have children who continue to be penalised by a system which views all women within a set age bracket to be equally likely to take maternity leave. This is the logical equivalent of a business discovering that an employee from Nuneaton has stolen £20 from petty cash and docking £5 from the wages of every employee from the Midlands.

The remainder of the article consists of examples of how Currie herself succeeded in politics (buying a new suit and telling her hubby to gaze at her adoringly in public) and some opinions on whether we should discourage schoolkids from using sexist language (spoiler alert – Edwina’s not arsed).

Of course there are examples of individual campaigns or even individuals within the feminist movement who aren’t doing the right things to promote the cause, but as a member of the Conservatives and the person who appointed Jimmy Savile to a taskforce on Broadmoor in the 1980s, I’d hope Currie would be more cogniscent than most that sometimes people who share some of your ideals do things which you wouldn’t personally support.

In case you are still interested in her views, Currie’s solution to this problem is more single-sex and grammar schools. Her evidence is that this is how she was educated and, as we can all see, she is putting that education to excellent use, misinterpreting words and using them to attract attention to the massive pile of privilege she sits on while detracting attention from the real inequality that surrounds us all.

@DottyWinters

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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.