Wednesday, 18 January 2012

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.


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.


  1. Some reasons I can think of...We don't have as many role models. It's not expected of us. We're often marginalised/ignored.
    That doesn't mean that those that can should and we support others.

  2. Said it before, and will no doubt say it again...
    The cock crows, but the hen lays the eggs.

    Behind every good man is an even better woman. If women wanted to be MPs and stuff they would be. I think men are often better at the crowing. They certainly can't lay eggs.
    Its like women wanting the same prizes at wimbledon, I say when they play matches as long and against the men then fair enough.

    We were superior before they made us equal, I think we want to forget this equality and go back to being superior.

    There is a place for everyone. There is a reason we have boys and girls. Why do we want to blur the edges and make them the same, why not celebrate the differences?

    Look at the iron lady, love her or hate her she made it. If she can do it so can any other determined woman. If they want to, and I think 'because we refuse' can be 'because we don't want to'. I think that most women want to nurture and grow and do useful things. I think once you become a politician with the best will in the world you change into an automaton at the beck and call of the civil service and party and don't do much after you have been absorbed into the system. Women can see that. Men don't. Women don't want to do that. They don't want to crow. They want to lay eggs.

    The real power is behind the throne. That's where we want the good women.

  3. Thanks very much, Lou, for writing this post following our chat with Dominic on Twitter. Well-written - as ever!
    I will write a history-based response post to this shortly, rather than expand on some ideas in comments.