Helen Downs discusses the TUSC policy on women

TUSC policy on women does not provide an adequate platform for effective campaigning or for the introduction of useful structures and practices in local government.  The existing statement of policies uses terminology such as ‘welcome diversity’, ‘oppose discrimination and prejudice’, ‘equal rights and pay’ etc.  This implies that inequality is the result of irrational attitudes.  More importantly, it suggests that after removing/correcting mistaken ideas, equality is possible without changing anything else in the existing economic/social system. 

While TUSC operates within the current system, we can make significant changes.  A socialist approach analyses social/economic structures to explain inequality, particularly emphasising different access/involvement in paid employment in the creation of profit.  We acknowledge that this is reflected in attacks on the public sector. The same groups – disabled, women, and pensioners – that are excluded from paid employment by the social economic division between home and work are more dependent on the Welfare State.

It is these structural factors which give rise to reactionary ideas, not the other way round.  TUSC is committed to the defence and maintenance of the Welfare State, not merely as a safety net, but as an integral element in promoting social cohesion and solidarity and as a means of promoting gender equality.

Below are two key features of women’s oppression with outlines of a potential socialist response in the arena of local government.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Two women are killed by violent male partners every week, more than British soldiers serving in Afghanistan.  Women have a 1 in 4 chance of suffering dv.  Research indicates a similar risk of sexual assault and rape.  Anonymous surveys show the vast majority of sex offenders are never reported or convicted.  The disgraceful treatment meted out to women who do secure a conviction has been seen in the case of Ched Evans, Sheffield United player, recently convicted of rape.  His victim was (unlawfully) named and insulted by thousands of Evans’ supporters on social network sites.  This case shows the prevalence of mythology of sexual violence – rapists are psychopaths who leap out of dark alleys to attack women who behave irresponsibly – by dressing ‘provocatively’, being sexually ‘promiscuous’, putting themselves at risk by walking alone at night, etc.  In fact, the majority of rapists are ordinary men, known to their victims and most rapes take place in daylight hours in the home. 

Likewise, the mythology of domestic violence also attempts to shift responsibility onto women and suggests that victims have a particular psychological make-up which leads them to be attracted to violent men.  Research by Women’s Aid demonstrates that dv offenders are initially charming, then possessive, then controlling, only resorting to physical violence when the woman is thoroughly demoralised.  The frequent question ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’ is answered by years of psychological abuse, economic poverty, responsibility for children and the well founded fear of lethal violence

Domestic violence and sexual violence are not caused by the psychology or behaviour of women.  The myths surrounding these issues must be challenged.

TUSC promotes education programmes on VAW

TUSC actively promotes sex and relationship education, specifically on the issue of consent

TUSC actively campaigns for adequate refuge, re-housing and therapy for those escaping domestic violence.

CHILDCARE

In capitalist society, childcare is done primarily in the ‘private’ sphere of the home usually by the mother.  This is difficult to avoid because the division of labour causes the gender pay gap and is reinforced by social expectations.  The added expenses of child rearing usually result in the father, as the higher paid worker, taking the role of bread winner to support the family financially.  This means the mother falls behind in annual progression at work which reinforces the division of labour and creates obvious inequality between the partners.  The effects of this can be seen, in the worst case, as financial abuse, now recognised as a form of domestic violence.

Maternity leave, a hard won right, is often seen as a disadvantage as unscrupulous employers regard it as an unnecessary inconvenience and expense in spite of protective legislation and State support for employers.  Some have argued quite openly that they would not employ women of childbearing age given the choice.

The State has recently taken routine responsibility for childcare firstly through the education system, latterly by provision of nursery facilities, Sure Start, tax credits subsidy and so on.  But the basic model of employment remains the 40 hour, 5 day week, with no breaks for childrearing.  Any deviation from this model is only by special arrangement, clearly mitigating against shared childcare between mothers and fathers, and women’s employment opportunities, leading to a marked increase in inequality of income and domestic violence to name but two undesirable developments in the aftermath of parenthood.

Ultimately, the available work and wealth should be shared equally throughout society.  This should be promoted as part of the aim to achieve a better work/life balance for all workers, not just parents, but would be of particular benefit for working mothers without stigmatizing them as a special case.

TUSC supports parental leave to be shared between fathers and mothers

TUSC supports accessible state provision of childcare for all who want it

TUSC actively promotes paternity leave; parental leave to care for e.g. sick children to be taken by fathers;

TUSC actively promotes flexible working arrangements for parents

TUSC promotes education in schools (e.g. in PSHE) on shared domestic labour

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