By Kate Harris
Is it magenta? Is it cerise? Is it a “one nation colour”? Does anyone care?
Regardless of how you spin it, the person or people who thought up using a Barbie-pink transit van to try to persuade women to vote Labour is probably kicking themselves — or being kicked by a senior Public Relations person.
The right-wing press has been having a field day about the “patronising” pink minibus, its “Woman to Woman” slogan and its proponents, Harriet Harman, Gloria de Piero and Lucy Powell. (Deputy Leader, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities and Vice Chair of the General Election Campaign respectively.)
There are two things going on here, really. If you talk about “women’s issues”, you actually have to talk about the issues that stop us from being equal to men: which include our disproportional childcare burden; the fact that in straight couples, we do much more domestic labour than men; how our work is underpaid, part time and precarious; and the violence we suffer at the hands of men, among other issues.
Harman, de Piero and Powell are hinting at some of those things when they talk about bringing politics to “around the kitchen table”. Unfortunately phrased, but I don’t think it’s meant in a patronising way. But they don’t talk about these oppressions explicitly enough, or offer the radical policies needed to deal with them. Despite various reforms, and despite often having more and better qualifications (beating men at GCSE and A-levels and completing more undergraduate degrees) we still earn way less for doing the same work, and way, way less for “different” work!
We could start with some pretty basic reformist demands, like a year’s maternity or paternity leave on full pay. We could ban zero hour contracts and make bosses raise wages. We could reverse the cuts and put a stop to austerity.
When the Labour leadership start to promise the above, I’ll start to take their concern for our conditions a bit more seriously.