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NAW AGM It’s hard to be a woman

On the eve of the AGM of the National Assembly of Women ANITA WRIGHT considers the reality of being a woman in today’s society

I SAW one of those clever quotes the other day that goes like this: “It’s hard to be a woman because you must think like a man, act like a lady, look like a young girl and work like a horse.”  

It got me thinking about the reality of being a woman in today’s society.

Cuts to the public sector, where most of the workers are women, and the outsourcing of local services, particularly in social care, have resulted in a huge rise in the number of low-paid jobs.

Fifty-nine per cent of jobs paying below the minimum wage are held by women and many are on part-time or zero-hours contracts. Full-time work for women is slowly disappearing.

But of course this just plays to the old idea that women are predisposed to unchallenging, repetitive part-time jobs, which is why there are so few of us in senior management positions.

And if we give birth, we should really just stay at home to look after the children, which is why the government says nothing about the fact that over 54,000 women are dismissed each year or bullied out of their job if they become pregnant or that a third of Sure Start nurseries have closed due to budget cuts.

It’s not surprising that the number of people living in poverty surged by 700,000 in one year, with women suffering at an increasingly higher rate than men.

And of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you won’t get paid as much as a man no matter how hard you work — obviously because we’re not as important, even if we do the same job or one of similar value. 

The gender divide in our capitalist society runs deep, which is why the fight for gender equality has to operate on so many different levels.

So it’s inspiring to see women workers in Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco pursuing equal pay claims and more women standing up against discrimination and sexual harassment with movements like Sisters Uncut, Everyday Sexism and the #Metoo campaign. 

For too long we have suffered the effects of a capitalist economy that stereotypes and perpetuates gender differences at work, at home and in society.

We have been subjected to an economy obsessed with measuring productivity and GDP, yet the profit produced by labour will never take account of all the other paid and unpaid activities, predominantly carried out by women, that make society work.

Women are increasingly demanding a fairer, more equal and sustainable society, where money is spent on homes, hospitals, libraries and schools, not on bombs, guns and weapons. 

The National Assembly of Women (NAW), with its strong links to the trade union and labour movement, continues to play its part in this fight.

This weekend NAW members, who are actively involved in unions, the peace movement environmental and community-based campaigns will be in Liverpool at our annual meeting to share experiences and discuss the challenges ahead.    

There’s a wide range of motions to debate, including gender recognition, immigration and asylum detention, defence diversification and the rise of the far right.

We will also be preparing for the TUC march on May 12 and the 70th anniversary celebration of the NHS on June 30, along with plans for our own September 29 and 30 conference on economic and social policies that advance equality and form the basis for a new charter for women.

It is hard to be a woman in today’s corrupt and rotten capitalist society, but we’re fighting back. 

We won’t care if you don’t think like a man or act like a lady in the campaign to get rid of this Tory government because we desperately need to elect a Labour government that has the courage and determination to drive through radical social and economic change to improve the quality of life for women and ultimately for men too.

Anita Wright is president of the National Assembly of Women.

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