(Just a note – I love my RebelRaising identity, but have lots to say about things other than parenting, so I’ve decided to revive this blog for all of those things. Parenting, (green, feminist, radical) politics, and possibly some knitting.)
This post started as a comment to Stephen Glenn on this post, entitled “Is Job Sharing MPs Idea Sexist?”. Green Party of England and Wales leader Caroline Lucas has proposed that MPs be able to jobshare. Stephen argues that it’s retrograde to suggest that “offering women part-time jobs” is the best way to retain/ get talented women into Parliament(s). So here’s what started as a comment to that.
What a load of nonsense. Other people with caseloads job-share all the time – doctors, nurses, therapists, teachers. And MPs already have constituency workers who form part of the team on constituency cases; ministers likewise have civil servants in their teams (some of whom might be job-sharing). If it would be completely impossible for someone else to take over your job if you fell under a bus, you’re doing your job wrong.
As for “demeaning to women”, what’s demeaning to women is saying that, because we have the Equal Pay Act, we should just pull ourselves together and participate in the all-hours, all-consuming job world, when the reality is that it is still women who do most of the household and childcare work. It might be nice if this were not the case (though in my two-female-adults household, I’m not sure what the other options are, apart from maybehiring a houseboy), but I don’t see why we should be willing to wait for utopia before women can have tolerable lives as parliamentarians. And what is demeaning to both men and women who want a life alongside work is to suggest that this doesn’t have the potential to make them people with richer experience, and hence better representatives of their constituents.
Two problems: parliaments demand unreasonable things from their members; and women are, on average, dispropotioantely unable to meet those unreasonable demands.
Personally, I think that even if job-sharing were only a part-time stop-gap to get women able to meet the demands of an M(S)P job until we reach that glorious utopia where everything is equal, it would be worth doing. Saying “but there shouldn’t be sexism, so we won’t do anything to address its real effects here and now” is just nonsense.
But more importantly, I think, why should it be the business of women and others who are unwilling to give up their lives to this all-consuming job to “get over it” and do so? Isn’t there a problem with Parliament(s) if standing for them is something ordinary folks with family commitments and hobbies cannot consider? Doesn’t it lead to a Parliament full of weirdos and anoraks? Now, I’m both a weirdo and an anorak myself at times, but even if I could get and afford someone else to mind my kids all day every day, evenings and weekends as well, I would actually not want to do that. But I think I’d be a pretty good representative, both in Parliament and as a caseworker and in all those other things M(S)Ps do. You might disagree (and indeed, the people of Edinburgh North and Leith did disagree this May, placing me a (fairly respectable) 5th. Love y’all anyway.) but surely you can think of someone who would?
Let’s release the Parliamentary potential of a much wider part of society – disproportionately but not exclusively women. Support Caroline Lucas’s proposals.