‘We are not a special interest party! We are half the population!’

Maddie Burton explains the recently announced policies of the new Women’s Equality party

If you haven’t yet watched the footage of the Women’s Equality Party policy launch, I suggest you take a look.

This Tuesday 20th October, in a packed Conway Hall, the launch of Women’s Equality (WE, for short) was marked, an undeniably historic moment for women.  Never before have we seen a political party almost entirely comprised of women, for women’s issues, with the aim of helping society overall. It has to be said that the large group of women on stage were somewhat reminiscent of a scene from Calendar Girls – but it shouldn’t be. To see a group of empowered women shouldn’t be unusual or subversive, and this is exactly the attitude that WE are here to change.

The feeling at the launch was electric, revolutionary. The event was certainly unconventional, with a speaker as young as 17 introducing the party’s leader, Sophie Walker. She herself took to the stage, to candidly and eloquently summarise exactly the inequality issues that face so many women of today.

To clear up the basic aims of the party, here they are:

  • WE are pushing for equal representation in politics, business, industry and throughout working life.
  • WE expect equal pay and an equal opportunity to thrive.
  • WE are campaigning for equal parenting and caregiving and shared responsibilities at home to give everyone equal opportunities both in family life and in the work place.
  • WE urge an education system that creates opportunities for all children and an understanding of why this matters.
  • WE strive for equal treatment of women by and in the media.
  • WE seek an end to violence against women.

From watching the policy launch I was personally somewhat taken aback by the more laid-back and friendly attitude of it. There were no grey men in suits and constant buzzwords, only a slight smattering of catchy soundbites. Doing politics differently has never been more realised.

This became ever more apparent as I headed to Gloucester Road on Tuesday evening to one of the 67 launch parties throughout the UK, this one being held by the Bristol branch of WE. Here, the same attitudes of honesty and humility were exemplified – unlike other mainstream political parties WE are absolutely willing to work with other parties to form policies that will help women. At the Bristol branch, dual membership between parties was even encouraged, as it is seen as a pressure for other parties to be more active in their policies for equality.

Indeed Walker’s challenge to David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn was to beat the Women’s Equality Party to the election in 2020 and enforce their policies first. There is no motivation here for individual power over the country (although that is what they will strive for if they need to), just a genuine motivation for change and nothing more. Equality should not be treated as a joke, and as she said (greeted with much cheering and agreement from the crowd): ‘We are not a special interest party! We are half the population!’

Of course, policies rarely come without their controversy. Some policies were obvious; equal guaranteed parental leave shared between parents – the idea being that men and women should be equal caregivers in order to afford women the work opportunities that they want.

Some of the others may invite a little more dispute; the party’s eventual aim is to end demand for prostitution and to criminalize the purchase of sex. Many a fellow feminist will be very much in favour of criminalising the purchase of sex rather than its sale, but there is the question of whether ending demand for prostitution is even possible. One could also argue that criminalising the purchase of sex is unfair – if a woman is in desperate need of money it could be harmful to remove her business demand.

At the Bristol end of things, the launch party was very much a forum for discussion on what issues particularly affect Bristol and what we, as members, thought the party could do to help. To see politics being so participatory was phenomenal. Ideas were put forward such as working with local organisations, hosting discussions and talking to students in local schools – all with the aim of changing oppressive attitudes towards women and increasing their participation in politics.

I was fortunate enough to catch a few words from Jessica Reed of the Bristol branch of WE (who it must be noted only speaks personally and not on behalf of the party) who simply added: ‘I’m very confident we can make this happen’ and ‘people feel more confident about speaking out’.

And I’m sure that will only become more true. With a national political body to represent women such as this, there is no need to feel any longer that all political powers are ignoring women’s issues. And even if they don’t win a majority government in 2020, the increasing pressure of women’s issues in the mainstream political sphere is a triumph.

If you wish to have a look at the WE policies yourself please visit: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/womensequality/pages/405/attachments/original/1445332098/WE_Policy_Launch.pdf?1445332098

Illustration by Kate Dickinson 

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One thought on “‘We are not a special interest party! We are half the population!’

  1. The WEP website says of their goals that they aren’t in order of importance, but the fact that they’ve happened to so far focus heavily on the first two implies otherwise. The six points reversed would give arguably a better order of importance, again not so coincidentally this would be approximately in order of how disadvantaged the women predominantly affected by the issues are. The women’s equality party can only lose the label of a special interest party if they actively show going forwards that they are not a party looking out for the interests of only bourgeois white cis women.

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