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Women fighting back against the cuts

2 March 2012

In the midst of austerity, a growing number of women are recognising that the most pressing challenges faced by millions of women are not those of gendered language or the 'male gaze', but are much more basic.

Fem11

Are a new generation of women picking up the mantle of feminism where previous generations left off? In November the popular UK Feminista conference ‘FEM 11’ attracted over 1000 campaigners and the Fawcett Society hit the headlines with their challenge to the Tory- led government’s budget which disproportionately penalises women.

The measures in the 2010 budget cut nearly £8bn from tax credits and welfare, an estimated 70 per cent of which was proposed to come from women’s pockets. How is this imbalance possible?

Despite warnings from organisations including Fawcett, many of the cuts are only now becoming apparent as councils and organisations have their budget reductions realised.

More than two thirds of jobs lost in local government throughout 2010 and the first half of 2011 belonged to women, whilst in the latest unemployment figures women accounted for two thirds of the increase. By November 124 Sure Start children’s centres had already been closed under the Tory- led government. Not only are women facing economic uncertainty but services they depend upon to support their ability to work are being cut. This has the effect of pushing women back into the kitchen, something that people – quite rightly – are angry about.

Fare increases also disproportionately affect women: a recent TUC report, The gender impact of the cuts – a year on, notes women’s greater reliance on public transport, with 63 per cent of women having a driving licence compared to 81 per cent of men.

The TUC’s Equality Duty toolkit – available on their website – acts as a great campaigning guide for those opposing cuts to local services, even when outside of the public sector.

Trade Unions have been at the forefront of organising for women’s rights for decades. The TSSA has a self- organised group for women members called Women In Focus: to get involved please contact Sharon Simmonds on wif@tssa.org.uk

 

Book review: How to be a woman, by Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran says she originally approached a publishing agent with a plan to write a light-hearted 'stocking-filler' book...and then came out with an idea for a feminist manifesto based on her life.

The result reflects what goes on in the back of a lot of women’s minds – that it’s not that big a deal to be feminist and whilst many negative connotations have been attached to the word, feminism really just means women being treated fairly.

In the spirit of Moran’s biographical style, I remember hearing a 17 year old Moran on the radio describing being a feminist as ‘not walking around with a ‘Kick Me’ sign on your back’ and this stuck with me. She cites Germaine Greer as a huge influence on her as a young person, but it is mainly the events in her life that are used as touchstones in the book. With chapters like ‘I Encounter Some Sexism!’ and ‘I Start Bleeding!’ (as well as ‘Abortion’ – without the exclamation mark) Moran uses an Everywoman approach to highlight common problems.

The best parts of the book are the throw away comedic descriptions of situations she has been in, which make the book extremely readable. The weaker parts are when she attempts to sum up ways to tackle sexism with simple statements, such as ‘I have a rule of thumb: Are the men doing it? Are the men worrying about this as well? Is this making Jeremy Clarkson feel insecure?’ But it’s not really the point: Moran avoids trying to solve all women’s problems, instead she wants to pull us back from the assumption that feminists are dungaree-wearing man-haters with bad haircuts and to encourage women to normalise the idea of feminism as something that affects our daily lives. For that reason this book is very useful.

Kerry Abel, TSSA Equalities and Diversity Organiser

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