The ‘Corbyn is sexist’ thing

UK Labour Party Leader ship Hustings

Today, I’m going to quickly talk about something I don’t usually talk about – women, and their scandalous lack of representation in public life.

We live in a grim society where, for thousands of years, being a man had been treated as the default setting. Men were naturally assumed to be superior, more suited to leading and dealing with big responsibilities, and women were thought to be naturally predisposed towards domestic chores.

Eventually, after a painfully long wait, a good chunk of the population woke up to the fact that was utter bollocks. But unfortunately, that hasn’t proved enough to shift us from a situation that’s still fundamentally skewed in favour of penis owners.

50% of the population is female. Thus, 50% of practically every profession should be female. To help achieve that, we need all sorts of positive discrimination – society acknowledging the historical disadvantages women have faced, and giving them a leg-up to real equality.

However. The positive discrimination argument is currently being used by disgruntled Labour right-wingers as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with, now he’s leader of the Labour Party. They argue that choosing a male leader when there were two female candidates standing shows that Labour is horribly sexist.

But positive discrimination in politics is a bit different to positive discrimination elsewhere in society. Politics is – or should be – about ideology. What do you believe as a voter, and which of the candidates best reflects that.

There were indeed two women standing in the leadership election. Unfortunately, they positioned themselves further to the right than any twentieth century Conservative Prime Minister bar Mrs Thatcher, and repeatedly slurred the kind of politics that I and many other Labour members and supporters believe in.

Furthermore, they supported austerity, the hard-line neoliberal restructuring of society to benefit the already rich and Britain’s corporate-financial elite – a morally, socially and economically catastrophic agenda that’s been conclusively shown to hurt women far more than men.

If a female candidate who was equally opposed to that kind of politics had stood, I would’ve voted for her over Jeremy – or, more precisely, I wouldn’t have had to, because feminist Corbyn would never have stood against a woman from his own wing of the party.

In short, contra what unhappy Blairites are disingenuously suggesting in the media, the best choice for women and women’s equality in this election was a 66 year-old socialist man.

Update: I wrote this specifically about the leadership, but then the next day it all kicked off re: Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

Corbyn was attacked for not giving a ‘top’ job to a woman. Tom Watson was his deputy. John McDonnell was chancellor. Andy Burnham was Home Secretary. Hillary Benn was Foreign Secretary.

Naturally, critics ignored the fact he went on to announce the first majority-female shadow cabinet in British political history.

Their line of attack relies on a very outdated – and rather un-socialist –idea of what constitutes a big job. If you ask me – and most people in this country, I’d imagine – the most important jobs are chancellor, health secretary, education secretary and defence secretary. All bar one of which have been given to female candidates – Heidi Alexander at health, Lucy Powell at education, Maria Eagle at defence.

Add to all that, having to contend with a Parliamentary Labour Party that’s only 40% female, and a political arena in which women, ethnic minorities, LGBT people and working class people are grossly underrepresented, I don’t think Corbyn’s done too bad at all. Especially given how many female candidates ruled themselves out, either by straight-up refusing to serve or being incompatible with Corbyn’s anti-austerity agenda.

When reshuffles come a-knocking, I’d like to see some of Labour’s new-intake left-wingers given positions – people like Cat Smith, Kate Osamor, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Clive Lewis and others.

I also want to add a quick last note about John McDonnell. I’m seeing quite a few Corbyn evangelists expressing misgivings about John.

At serious risk of sounding like a hard-left hipster, I think that’s because a lot of Corbyn supporters didn’t know Corbyn existed before about four months ago, and don’t have much of an idea about the state of the Labour Left in parliament.

In the House of Commons, Corbyn and McDonnell come as a unit. McDonnell is more abrasive and less conciliatory, but in all other respects he’s basically Corbyn – someone who’s spent decades trying to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.

He’s also chair of the Labour Representation Committee, the most important organisation on the Labour Left – which, if I was to dare utter a single criticism, could’ve done with getting more of a look-in during the campaign. But I would say that, because I’m a member.

To end: Twitter doesn’t allow much thinking time. You have a gut reaction to something, and then it’s suddenly out there for the twitterverse to read. I’d encourage Corbyn supporters to try and pause, do some research, before suddenly proclaiming yourself disillusioned with Jeremy’s ‘sexism’ or concerned about ‘this McDonnell bloke’.