Snapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.
Minister for Women Is Axing Feminism from A-Level Politics
Ella Dodd, Durham University
Nicky Morgan, education secretary and minister for women has drafted a curriculum dropping feminism from the A-level Politics syllabus. What’s more, the proposed new syllabus only features one female political thinker, Mary Wollstonecraft, heightening the ‘insulting and misguided’ actions of the Education department. This move has prompted individuals such as Jacquelyn Guderley to ask if feminism is removed from the syllabus, ‘how can we learn from them and progress? How can we be thankful but hungry for more?’
Perhaps the drafters of the change to the politics syllabus should read Mary Wollstonecraft’s first book, “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters”, which promotes female education and encourages mothers to teach their daughters. The removal of the feminist voice from the syllabus may mean the silencing of lessons passed down from generations before who struggled for equality.
Last year’s AQA government and politics paper asked: “Explain the term patriarchy in the context of feminism”. The ability to answer questions like this is essential in a society where feminism is a powerful political movement. By eliminating women from the syllabus the government is suggesting their contributions are not valued.
The consultation on the proposal for A-level content runs until the 15th of December. It is not too late for the public to oppose the proposals. The fact that the very person whose role is to ensure women’s equality is enabling the deliberate deletion of women from history means we as the public must have our voices heard. Mary Wollstonecraft famously said, “I do not wish [women] to have power over men, but over themselves.” How can women have power over themselves if they do not know of the voices which have created the very foundations on which they stand?
Lady Hale speaks on Judicial Diversity
Catherine Ravenscroft, Durham University
If the Supreme Court does not achieve a more diverse judiciary in the six upcoming vacancies it ought to be ashamed of itself, said Lady Hale, speaking in Birmingham a few weeks ago. Of the 12 Supreme Court justices, only one is a woman. The others are predominantly white, middle-class, Oxbridge-educated men, with similar backgrounds as successful barristers before judicial appointment. This is not the first time that Lady Hale has attempted to promote such diversity. However now she says women ‘owe it…to the future of the law and the legal system, to step up to the plate’. One of the ways she suggests this may be done is via greater use of the ‘tipping point’ provision ,a regulation under the Equality Act 2010 which allows panels to choose the candidate from the less well represented background when considering two individuals of equal merit.
The views expressed by Lady Hale are in sharp contrast to her fellow Supreme Court judge, Lord Sumption. He told the Evening Standard in September that attempts to speed up diversity in the judiciary could have ‘appalling consequences’. Unlike Lady Hale, he strongly believes that no positive measures are necessary since change will happen naturally and over time. Furthermore, he argues such measures could deter male candidates from applying for judicial positions and belittle the traditional respect felt for such appointment.
While dissent in opinion between judges is not uncommon, this particular disagreement may have long lasting repercussions. Since others, such as the Lord Chief Justice, also appear to support the view of Lord Sumption, it may be unlikely that we see the sort of positive action described by Lady Hale in the near future.
Equal pay between men and women won’t happen for another 118 years
Aidan Bull, Durham University
The World Economic Forum believes it will take another 118 years (until 2133) until the global pay gap between men and women is finally closed.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report details how in many countries, more women are going to university than men, but crucially, this is not translating into women occupying top leadership positions. For example, there are more women than men in university in 98 countries, but only in Columbia, Fiji and the Philippines do more women than men occupy leadership roles.
An explanation for this global gap has been given by Ms Saadia Zahidi (the report’s lead author). She believes that attitudes need to change in the home, as it is great to provide opportunities for women in the workplace, but if the cultural gender role of women staying in the home doesn’t change, these opportunities will not be taken. “Unless we start changing the culture around the division of labour at home there’s always going to be that extra burden on women,” she says; “That means we’re not going to be able to maintain those high levels of women joining the workforce all the way through to middle management and senior positions.”
But simply getting more women in the workforce will not ensure substantive equality. The report also finds a wide gap between the rates of pay for men and women doing the same work: for every $1 earned by a man, researchers estimate that, on average, a woman will get little more than 60 cents. Therefore, not only is it necessary to encourage more women to enter the workforce to obtain formal equality, it is also imperative to ensure regulations and laws ban outright discrimination, to ensure substantive equality.