100 Years On From Winning The Right For Women To Vote But How Far Have We Actually Progressed? By Kelly Grehan

Next week marks 100 years since some women in Britain were granted the vote – it seems to be forgotten that, despite all men over 21 years of age being able to vote after the Representation of People Act, only women over 30 who occupied a house were deemed fit to vote.

It was another 10 years before equal suffrage was to be achieved. At this time the destiny of a woman was very clear – get married and raise a family.

Campaigners like Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Garret Anderson had carried out and pursued a peaceful struggle to open professions like medicine to women. Yet still, only the privileged few, whose fathers or husbands were enlightened enough to permit it, got a foot on the ladder of opportunity.

Today almost all jobs are open to women, and yet we have yet to get an even gender representation in Parliament or standard equal pay.  

But there is one industry where process towards equality has been particularly slow: sport.

Male played sports continue to dominate the TV schedules and news headlines. Women who have beaten the odds and the system, such as Assistant Referee Sian Massey-Ellis are subject to scrutiny on their appearance which would never be imparted on their male counterparts.

In fact, after Sky Sports pundits Andy Grey and Richard Keys were embroiled in a row over their sexist comments on her; The sun saw fit to print a front cover of Sian dancing in a vest top and denim skirt with the headline ‘Get ‘Em Off.’

Further to this, some sports – boxing and motorcar racing in particular –  have not only continued to be overwhelmingly male dominated, but have continued to use women in roles that I can only describe as ‘accessories.’

This week it seems, those responsible for the Formula 1 brand openly recognised its use of ‘grid girls’.

They deemed it out of date and not conducive to the image they wish to portray.  In a Press Release Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1 said:

“Over the last year we have looked at a number of areas which we felt needed updating so as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport.  While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms. We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.”

Formula 1 should be congratulated for their change in policy here and let us not forget this was a commercial decision, taken to protect commercial interests.

Clearly F1 decided that girls doing nothing more than looking pretty and having champagne poured on them was not a good image.

This has, perhaps predictably, not prevented  the coverage that has followed; accusing them of ‘cowering to political correctness’  and that ‘jealous, ugly feminists’ have ‘banned’ women from jobs they loved.

Objectification of women is endemic in our society.  Just look at the recent events at the Presidents Club.  People claim the women concerned enjoy their work, choose it etc. No doubt this is true, but ‘work’ of this type contributes to a society in which women’s role is seen as being for the pleasure of men in a world where they are portraying that the nearest women can get to the top or be a success is by fawning all over the men who actually win something.

Then there is the vilifying of feminism and the repeated use of the word ‘feminist’ as a derogatory term.

A brief browse through this weeks tabloids or twitter attached to the hashtag #gridgirl gives no doubt about the vitriol aimed at women who dare to praise the F1 decision.

Women who call themselves ‘feminists’ can expect to be called ‘jealous,’ ‘ugly,’ ‘prudes,’ and such like as a matter of course.

So 100 years after women won the vote it seems the idea that ‘women should know their place’ still persists.

We still have a long way to go for gender equality.

The Fight for Equality is Everyone’s Fight By Nathen Amin

By Nathan Amin

We appear to be living in a peculiar period here in the UK where a bitter divide has opened between opposing sections of the populace over a topic that should, in truth, be a unifying force – equality.

What one person proclaims should be a natural right for all is often vociferously condemned by another as a threat to their culture’s established way of life. It is a bizarre time indeed, and this is one ideological conflict I am not quite sure I understand. Surely, the battle for equality is a battle ALL of us should be fighting, regardless of our genealogical background, which we have no control over incidentally, or political outlook.

I can’t be the only person exasperated by witnessing protests by those seeking to establish equal rights for minority sections of the British public; reduced to nothing more than violent clashes between the right and left. Both sides often degraded by the other with unhelpful monikers such as fascist and Anti-FA, Nazi and snowflake, and so on.

How the hell a term like ‘liberal’, incidentally, became an insult, I’ll never know, and truth be told, I’ll never comprehend how anyone can protest against equality in the first place.

Let me expand a little bit. Whether we appreciate the fact or not, and it appears that many in modern-day Britain are wilfully preferring to remain ignorant, we are all affected by issues surrounding gender, health, sexuality, race, religion or creed. The fight for equality for those who are dreadfully affected by prejudice on a daily basis is a fight we should all be partaking in, as a united society, and not one that divides us into separate battalions headed for an inevitable clash every time our divergent paths cross, literally and figuratively. And yet, here we are.

Now, admittedly, I may be in an unusual place where I am affected by the fight for equality on several fronts, courtesy of my immediate family unit. I am affected on racial and religious grounds because of my own mixed-race ethnicity, my non-white father being a Muslim. I am affected on grounds of disability and mental health because of conditions which affect my sister and wife, whilst I also strive for equality based on sexual orientation because another sibling is LGBT. Naturally, some of these relations are women in the workplace, which opens up another front on which I want to see them receive parity they wholeheartedly deserve. It is absolutely in my interest that those people get every inch of support needed to, at the very least, ensure they are receiving equality in and out of the workplace.

If support is lacking in their life, if the women aren’t being paid fairly for a job a man does, or if a gay woman is discriminated against on account of her sexuality, or whether another family member gets overlooked for a role based on their colour, then you best believe that affects my own life. So I am a supporter of gay marriage, rights for migrants, support for mental health services, and yes, I am a male advocate of feminism.

Not everyone is in my situation, however, so I want to speak directly to those who openly criticise folk for espousing the desire to see equality given in all areas of life. I’m speaking to those who post bitter, obscenity-laden, diatribes online decrying another ‘lefty’ attempt to destroy our ‘native’ culture by pushing for gay marriage, defending immigration, giving too much credence to mental health issues, or even supposedly pandering to other faiths such as Judaism and Islam to the detriment of ‘our Christian way of life’. How dare those women call for equal pay in work!

Well, have you guys ever considered the fact that any fight for equality might just be a fight you will someday appreciate, and even be grateful for?

Allow me to be a bit blunt, hereon in. The majority of those who loudly decry ‘pandering’ to minorities, whether based on racial grounds, on sexual orientation, or any other basis, are largely drawn from a straight, white British-born male demographic. Not all, of course, as some within that background are as left and inclusive as the next person, but it’s not incorrect to suggest that the make-up of most EDL, Britain First or other Far-Right or conservative movements tend to be from those drawn from such a background. It is these counter-activists who claim to stand up for their endangered culture, to be the defenders of perverse notions such as embracing multi-culturalism or freedom of sexuality. And you can, on one hand, understand why. After all, those men, you know the types, often snarling with indignation whether in person or on the internet, don’t care about being foreign, gay or a woman, and who often implore those with mental health issues to simply ‘suck it up’. They’re white, British, straight, male. This, it seems, is not their fight, and they don’t see why concessions should be made.

And yet, I can’t help but wonder. In time, these men will have wives, they will have daughters and sons, and they will perhaps even have a brood of grandchildren.

Have they never considered the fact that equality in the workplace between men and womencould mean the difference between their wives being paid the same amount of money to do a job another man does? 

Or the fact that one of their children, or grandchildren, may be homosexual and want to marry, or perhaps are even straight but have wed into a family of an immigrant background with different faith. Perhaps they will have a child who suffers from mental illness that prohibits them from leading a full and active lifestyle. Maybe even THEY will suffer from a depressive episode in their life. Having a ‘stiff upper lip’ won’t fend off the ravages of depression, regardless of their boasts of ‘manning up’. The very ideas these, I hesitate to call them men, persons stand against are the very things that could, one day, be imperative in protecting their own families. And that’s, after all, what it means to be a man, surely – to protect your loved ones, and ensure they have every opportunity to become the very best versions of themselves?

Would these people be satisfied to learn their child didn’t get that job because they were a lesbian, or their wife couldn’t get that promotion because she was a woman?

No-one in their right mind in today’s British society should sincerely consider equality to be a negative thing. 

Freeing everyone of any shackles, mentally, physically, legally, will only benefit everyone. I want the best for my family and friends, be they white, brown, male, female, straight, gay, disabled or otherwise. I want everyone to be free to reach whatever goal they have set for themselves, and not to be barred by their race, gender, sexuality or health. That’s not a bad thing to stand for.

Equality affects us all. Let me repeat that, Equality affects us ALL.

**

Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and is the author of non-fiction books Tudor Wales (2014), York Pubs (2016) and House of Beaufort (2017), an Amazon #1 Bestseller for Wars of the Roses. He is currently working on his fourth book, Pretenders to the Tudor Crown, for release in 2019. He has also featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer.