D-P 1: Gender Inequalities
A Preseli-Pembrokeshire Labour Party Discussion Paper
for: All-Members Meeting – 28 October 2016
Gender Inequalities – Feminist perceptions
Radical feminists, Marxist feminists and Liberal feminists share a common purpose in seeking equality between the sexes rather than dominance by either.
Radical feminists blame the exploitation of women on men, who they feel have benefited from the subordination of women. For these feminists the family is often seen as the key institution in what appears as a patriarchal society which oppresses women.
Some radical feminists attribute women’s subordination to cultural influences, particularly in the early years. Others believe that the origins of this subordination are biological, in terms of giving birth and nurturing the young.
Marxist feminists believe that while men benefit from the unpaid work that women carry out in the home, it is capitalists who ultimately benefit from this unpaid work. Without this unpaid labour, the capitalist system would collapse. They see women as ‘slaves of wage slaves’.
Liberal feminists do not have such clearly developed theories. They take the view that both men and women are harmed by gender inequalities. These inequalities restrict the potential that females could contribute at all levels of society for the benefit of the whole of society.
- Which of these three positions do you believe represents the most realistic interpretation of gender inequality in modern society?
- Do you believe there is a continuing diminution of gender inequality in all aspects of social life?
- What measures would you like to see introduced to accelerate moves towards gender equality?
Feminism although a diverse movement suffers from a lack of fit between a social movement and a
hierarchical political organisation.
It has exhibited a preference for the simplicity of direct democracy. It has been uncomfortable with the forms and practices of representative democracy which it feels is hierarchical, elitist, draconian and generally undemocratic.
In the 1980s many feminists were forced to compromise with authority and power in the system because of the number of political issues in which women had a particular stake. Matters such as equal pay, access to abortion, reproductive rights, protection from male violence, the availability of pornography and the rights of single parents.
Not all women who are politically active would regard themselves as feminists. Indeed many of those women engaged in the struggle for equality within their political party or trade union, would explicitly deny that they are feminist. Nevertheless they see and accept the truth of feminist arguments on the general issues of equality as it applies to gender.
More recent research by feminist authors has indicated that for these reasons, many feminists need to re-appraise the contention that lack of involvement in political institutions is not down to women, but rather is due to the nature of politics and that this needs to change if we are to fundamentally achieve gender equality.
Measurement of Gender Inequality Research done by the UN development programme has attempted to quantify gender inequality in European countries. One particularly interesting measure is what is termed the ‘gender empowerment measure’. This uses a number of indicators.
- Seats in Parliament held by women
- Female legislators senior legislators and managers who are employed in the Civil Service and Commerce.
- Female professional, technical and scientific staff.
The scale is between 0-1, 0 = no women are involved and 1 = where 50%of these posts are occupied by women.
The ranking in Europe Rank GEM (Gender empowerment measure) 2007
- Norway .905
- Sweden .854
- Denmark .847
- Wales? .830
- Finland .820
- Netherlands .817
- Belgium .808
- Germany .804
- Switzerland .771
- Spain .716
- Ireland .710
- UK .698
- Poland .686
- Portugal .640
- Italy .583
- Greece .523
- Russia .469
- Romania .465
In education, the UK has closed the gender gap completely (69% of women in further and higher education compared to 50% of men), but this improvement is not being translated into either equal pay or a more proportional number of women in senior business positions, technical employment or in senior political positions.
It is estimated that the average wage for women in the UK is £27k as compared with the average for men of £40k. This is a clear reflection of the large number of low waged women in employment in the UK.
Participation of women in political activity
There is a large amount of evidence and it is widespread, to suggest that young women are more predisposed to direct action than men of a similar age.
- Women have played key roles in the great political revolutions of modern times.
- Women are prominent in the resistance movements in Latin America.
- Norwegian studies have indicated that women in Norway in general participate as often as men but in different kinds of activity.
- There is also data which indicates that women who are in paid employment, full-time or part-time, participate more frequently than full-time housewives.
This suggests that where women are economically integrated they are more likely to be politically integrated, a finding that has been replicated in a number of countries.
Changes that we need to make in the Labour Party to address gender inequality in the participation of women
- Electoral reform – changing first past the post to proportional representation which has proved in many countries to advantage women
- All women shortlists
- Appoint a Minister for Gender Equality in Wales, as in New Zealand and Denmark.