With ‘Suffragette’ packing cinemas across the country now is a good time for Labour to be examining its attitude to women in the party. Last night, New Statesman Deputy editor Helen Lewis and Noel Park Councillor Peray Ahmet joined Guardian columnist Linda Grant to discuss the way forward.
It was great to see so many new and returning members, many of them women who had left the party over the Iraq war, or the pointless in-fighting of the 80s. There was a wide-ranging discussion that took in the problems facing the new leadership (Corbyn is, Lewis pointed out, essentially sympathetic to feminism but may find that issue pushed down his priority list), the difficulties facing women in the less well-off parts of the borough (and how they differ from those at the wealthier end), how hard it is for women to get on in the Labour Party (not a criticism of the Party, more the problem women have of finding the time to get involved voluntarily).
The biggest issue was childcare – which, as Linda Grant pointed out on Facebook today, has been the case for so long now. Helen Lewis suggested the way forward might be to ‘de-feminise’ the topic, so we follow the Scandinavian model, in which a certain number of days off granted for childcare have to be shared between partners.
Earlier in the week a sold-out crowd at the Art House listened to Catherine West and the feminist writer Natasha Walter discuss with Linda how the movie ‘Suffragette’ resonates today – let’s hope we can keep the momentum going, and make sure this is not a subject that falls away from Labour’s new agenda.
If you want to get involved contact the local Women’s Forum: http://www.hornseywoodgreenlabour.org.uk/women_s_forum