“Calm down dear”, the words used in an ad by the annoying and patronising Michael Winner. Who would have guessed that a prime minister of Britain would address a female MP in this way, in parliament? Then again who would have expected Ken Clarke to suggest fatuously, that some rapes were not as bad as others?
It causes concern that the most senior politicians in the present government could act in such a crass and patronising manner. However we are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that these attitudes are being mirrored in the impact of government cuts, disproportionatly, on women. A report just published by the Fawcett Society shows that women’s earnings are being cut, and that safeguards to protect women from violence and help to access justice are being undermined.
Anna Bird from the Society said: “Our report identifies a series of targeted and achievable policy measures that could be adopted by, or at, the 2012 budget, which together offer a life raft for women’s equality – and never has the need been so great.
“Women have not faced a greater threat to their financial security and rights in living memory. Decades of steady, albeit slow, progress on equality is being dismantled, as cuts to women’s jobs and the benefits and services they rely on, turn back time on women’s equality.”
The report sets out recommendations to offset the impact that the cuts will have on women’s jobs, benefits and the support they get from local authority services. The report is called, A Life Raft for Women’s Equality and is wide-ranging in its recommendations to support women and children.
More women are now unemployed than they ever have been for 23 years. More women will be affected by the cuts to local authority budgets as they make up a disproportionate number of the workforce who have been made unemployed, in the lowest paid jobs. More women will be forced back into the home, as the choices that have come so slowly over the past decades are taken away from them. One cannot help but wonder if these policies are a reflection of the paternalistic attitude of some in the conservative party, who have not accepted the changing nature of family and women’s place in society.
We had the Davies report not so long ago reporting on what is needed to get more women into the board room. This is important and continues to be so but it feels that there is a much more important issue here and that is why the present government feels that it is acceptable to allow the cuts to hurt women and children more.
There are 23 people in the coalition cabinet, of whom five are women, and only one, Theresa May in a senior position. How can we possibly expect equality of outcome when we do not see it in our government and our parliament? The word that comes to mind is depressing!