* Not really. I’m on the sofa at home.
“Women in the workplace” is a strange name for select committee inquiry, isn’t it? Hinting at novelty, it somehow suggests that “the workplace” is a strange place for women to be and that if there’s a problem to be explored, it’s to do with the presence of women, not with gender inequality nor discrimination itself.* Just women, being there. That’s the whole issue. Without them, “the workplace” would be simply “the workplace”. It’s not as though this has anything at all to do with men.
I guess it’s an attempt at something that sounds unbiased. Yet thus far, the inquiry seems far from neutral. If this is genuinely an attempt to answer questions regarding gender stereotyping, pay inequality and increasing opportunities for part-time workers, the choice of speakers for yesterday’s first evidence session was unsettling, to say the least. These included Steve Moxon, author of The Woman Racket and Mike Buchanan, Chief Exec of the Campaign for Merit in Business (a man who lives and dies by the merit in business sword: “I confidently anticipate I’ll keep losing money with my campaigning efforts. I cannot see how it could possibly be otherwise”. Alan Sugar would be proud). No wonder men’s rights’ activitists have been rubbing their hands with glee:
It shows that responsible and mature campaigning for male equality and against male discrimination is starting to work. [...] With organisations and campaigners like Mike and Swayne O’Pie (who also put in a submission) with academics like Catherine Hakim and Steve Moxon willing to put their head above the parapet but also campaign and lobby with the right positive tone and approach, these issues are no longer totally being ignored and going unchallenged.
Way-hey! Responsible, mature and not derailing in the slightest.
I don’t wish to be rude, but it would appear to me that not all of these people are experts in the issues that are supposed to be the focus of this inquiry. And of course neither am I. I haven’t done extensive research into the nature of gender stereotyping, hidden sexism and overt discrimination in the workplace. I haven’t explored the broad range of problems caused by the pressure of domestic work combined with paid work, nor have I looked into or piloted solutions. I haven’t talked to women who’ve wanted to progress about the things that have held them back, nor have I analysed the ways in which expectations of male labour have or haven’t changed in line with changing expectations of women. I haven’t looked at ways of altering how we reward particular types of work or challenged the belief that domestic labour has no economic value. I haven’t done any of these things, but some people have – and these people do not include pretend academic and UKIP-reject Steve Moxon.
So what, then, is going on? A representative for the inquiry told the Huffington Post: “We’re conducting an evidence based inquiry”:
We want there to be absolutely no suggestion that we haven’t taken into account a broad range of views.
So obviously, the next set of speakers will include a pretend academic who thinks men are broadly unfit to operate at the highest levels of business and he/she will demonstrate this with a series of made-up arguments. Just for the sake of balance, you understand. Unless of course Moxon’s good fortune in getting in there first has already changed the terms of the debate and now it’s all about whether women are fit to be making authoritative decisions at all. In which case, perhaps the whole “women in the workplace” debate should go back to first base and start with men debating whether or not women should even be in the workplace (apart from for the usual stuff – cleaning, typing, cooking, nursing, all that stuff they were doing before they actually “started working” – oh, and bringing cups of tea to the men while they discuss whether women should be able to join in with any discussions at some point in the distant future. Except they probably won’t want to *mutters something vague about hard-wiring*).
On the bright side, the deadline for written submissions to the Women in the Workplace Inquiry has been extended. So basically – again, in the interests of balance – I think anyone reading this should submit something. Even if you’re a woman and can’t normally be arsed to do “thinky” stuff. Look, Swayne O’Pie’s done it! We can easily cancel out one Swayne O’Pie, if nothing else.
It strikes me that people who don’t like women much are motivated – very motivated. I don’t think it’s hard-wiring – my personal view, supported by “the latest in evolutionary psychology” [no reference], is that the not-liking is just extremely powerful. Thinking that women are decent, capable human beings is generally a much more passive, peaceable way to be. But this ought to make us a bit cross. And hell, experts or not, we should say so.
* It also implies that the home is not a “workplace” – but then, for most of our MPs, I suppose it isn’t.