Much discussion has been had recently within the party about the potential for part time MPs to allow women between 30 and 50 to enter the proffession while raising children.
For more information see Lib Dem Voice's view on "Make politics fit women’s lives, not vice-versa".
However, while I applaud this debate happening, I have always felt that the issues with gender stereotypes are addressed reactively.
This therefore provides me with the perfect opportunity to undertake an entire discursive on gender stereotyping from birth to the grave.
Gender inequality may be entrenched but even this word does not synopsify the extent to which it infiltrates all areas of life. While parents may raise children to respect gender equality, the issues of femininity and masculinity are thrust upon children from the moment they can interact. Pink clothes and teddies verus blue teddies and dolls. Schools project the concepts of marriage and child-rearing, (and there is a different interwoven discursive here on relgion and class issues), children are stereotyped by the media that targets them and this embraced at large. Common issues are the merchandise aimed at children, from Barbies and Power Rangers to magazines and tv shows.
In order to unify a concept of gender equality all areas need to be tackled. Not just the concepts of the employment sector, but schooling, media, education at large, television etc. This will in turn take a generation (10 years) to filter through and if continued derrogative images of feminism (being shaved headed, braless lesbians, for example) are allowed to continue then the same negativity will prevail.
I also feel that the issue of "science" and media projected scientific fact ought to be regulated. We have reached a point in society where the word "hormonal" has become synonymous with "Hysterical" (overlaying from Freud's degredation of women) and as the media continues to publish ill founded reserach into the stereotypes of women, childrearing and breast feeding too, the idea of "Superwoman" (as "having it all" translates into, meaning woman are expected to have children, jobs and housework) will continue to pertain. For example the recent European studies on childcare stated that children benefit from staying at home until 3 years of age with their mother than going to a communal unit. This study failed to address single care givers such as fathers or nannies or au pairs, or the result may have been differently presented.
There are significant issues with gender inequality in employment. The reason that the paid divide maintains a wide gap is due to poor regulation of contracts of employment law. In a great deal of employment situations people with unequal wages have contracts stipulating they will be fired if they discuss their salaries with other employees. There should be greater regulation on this through the Tribunals to ensure wage discrimination can be addressed sensibly.
There is also a great deal of poor management which allows empoyees to blame part time and flexi workers. In a recent radio discussion on Radio 5 Live members of the public complained they had to "pick up slack" off of part time female employees. This is a management and regulation issue. While companies are encouraged to allow flexible working to encourage more women in the work place, they are not adotping a sensible approach to job shares and responsibilities. This is in turn caising resentment in those who work full time, and this is not just limited to men, but women without children too. this is clearly a result of European directives on equal opportunity in employment and gender discrimination being implemented too fast and without regulation in this country. This needs to be reviewed in depth and more care needs to be taken when implementing similar strategies in the future.
When looking at money, there is still the presumption of a single person dependent nuclear family, which are only in not viable in the current economic state, but also seeks to maintain the woman is the primary care giver and the man as the primary wage earner.
There are significant issues relating to legal status and women attempting to exit relationships. Not only charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau not well marketed nor well identifiable as leaders in the advice in this area, but also there appears to be a lack of education at school level with regard to managing finances when exiting relationships. Considering the amount of media discussion on relationships in themselves, it's very strange that there are not more articles and motivation for this area.
In a patriarchal society, as unfortunately we still are, the idea that a man supports the woman and the ideal position for a woman is to be a wife who lunches prevails. Combined with sitcoms such as Sex in the City, the idea of feminist independence has become skewered and seems to be interpreted as being a WAG. an obvious discursive here is the female roles within the celebrity society are not particularly admirable nor provide good structures for women to aspire to.
There needs to be a reasonably thorough education policy implemented, not only to existing adults, but also to parents and children within schools identifying the positives in female independence, reversing the "Bridget Jones syndrome", identifying how to manage finances and reasonable aspirations in this area. it appears that fundamental to this idea is the concept that a woman cannot exist without a man, all exist outside of the partnership. There would, of course, the negative implications with regard to the welfare state. With the implementation of the new Well form Act, it is expected that there will be a baby boom as women who wish to remain on benefits continue to have children to ensure that they have a child under the age of seven is that they do not have to actively seek work. Therefore, along with the education policy on the ideas of monetary financing, independence and strong role models, the idea of supporting yourself should also be pushed to the overwhelming majority of schoolchildren to create a more stable society in the future.
As a final point, the concept of a civil partnership only being available to single sex/homosexual couples is abominable where we have legislation protecting people from discrimination. This is a form of discrimination in itself. If you combine this with the concept that there is legislation in place to protect us from religious discrimination, it is almost a parody that the only legitimate contract for a man and woman has bases under religious order! From my own perspective, I feel that civil partnerships ought to be available to heterosexual couples as well, but the civil partnership should also have the same recognizable rights as those in marriage, which is currently not true. Perhaps a more sensible way to go and would be to establish, as in America, prenuptial agreement style contracts between people that move in together. Currently assets are protected if you can prove ownership, deposits etc, but this is still a woefully weak area of law. rather than establishing prenuptial agreements in marriage, which under British law is completely futile, perhaps the system of contractual agreements the people cohabiting would allow people to feel more secure and at the same time benefit people when exiting relationships. Common areas of complaint included where one partner has the credit card and one partner has a car loan and when they separate the debts are not equally assigned. Rather than this being promoted as another way for lawyers to make money, there should be an acceptable pro forma pack, not unlike a tenancy contract or similar,but not complicated as the housing pack is locked by the current government. This would be completely enforceable within a fast track claims for financial recuperation. It will also protect rights with regards to when apartment becomes terminally ill, a partner dies, separation, children, assets, debts and future commitments.
Ultimately I feel very strongly about the gender equality in society in the UK.