Eva Cox writes to Australian women
asking them to push for strong women's policies
to be placed on the election agenda
By Eva Cox
July 12, 2013
We no longer have a female PM, so that is the sign to push more feminist ideas onto the election policy agenda.
We need to remind politicians that there are continuing gender inequities. Women have been asking politely for a bit more power and a bigger share of what is, but one lesson the recent events should teach us is that playing politely by boys’ rules doesn’t really get us anywhere.
Women still fail to share fairly in power and resources, and face sexist attitudes if they make it into high positions. So here is a call to action, for changes to priorities so we can start to move towards being a more civil gender-fair society.
Start by reclaiming the idea that we live in society, not just an economy, then we need to reset social progress goals not just more financial growth.
Society is what ties us together, and it is feminist to want more recognition for the social relationships, emotions and interdependencies that make life worth living. So we need to work out what sort of place we want to live in, then decide how we pay for it as economic means should not undermine good social priorities.
Both major current parties
fail to recognise the importance of human services.
These are mainly offered by women, paid and unpaid, and contribute the skills and tasks to meet social wellbeing priorities. A good society offers its members a decent safety net and options for good relationships, meaningful activities and a sense of belonging.
There needs to be enough time for both being cared for and for caring for others so policies should value the mix of paid, unpaid and undervalued roles most often still seen as ‘women’s work’.
So what can we do to re-start a feminist revolution?
Adjust time budgets by fairly revaluing paid and unpaid activities:
Let’s redistribute the hours and days we work so we can spend more time on what we want to do, need to do and can do. Time can’t expand so let’s work out how to manage a 24/7 society and economy!
Change long hours work cultures:
Being there doesn’t necessarily mean doing something! Just offering flexibility or the right to request shorter hours to carers and family oriented people is career costly, and that is why few men take it on. So let’s work out how to give everyone more time by cutting the working week to 32 hours (four days or five shorter ones).
Shorter working hours will redistribute paid work to more people, allow more home production, cut living costs and offer time for community, family and friends. Costs would be minimised as evidence shows that part-timers usually produce more output per hour worked than full-timers. Shorter paid working hours can offer social benefits at little economic cost, and if productivity rises, so will pay!
Change how skills are valued:
We must fix the gender pay gap. The Productivity Commission should show that good people skills are both desirable and high level, and should attract higher pay. Dealing with people requires more skill than inanimate money or machines. As most industrial boy technical skills are out of date, it is time to stop the gendered biases against ‘female’ identified jobs. Maybe, if we raise child care pay, more men will do it!
Fund child care as a public service, like schooling:
What happened to quality neighbourhood community children’s services that took in kids for the hours they and their parents needed? The early years are the time when kids learn most so they need good quality, communal affordable, if not free, centres. So let’s start direct subsidies to the services which meet various local needs: more spaces for babies, flexible hours, located where and when needed, plus more services for school kids too!
Fund frugal but decent time out of paid work payments:
This is for the many women, and some men, who can’t take or find paid jobs. Time out often means other social contributions across the life cycle: children, family or friends need us. So basic payments should recognise a range of non-economic obligations, e.g. sole parents.
Offer retirement incomes that are adequate for those who haven’t earned (enough) super:
Women earn less and take out more time for care and kids so are often unable to save enough super. They need to access cuts to the overly high tax concessions for the rich to ensure a decent retirement for all.
Improve the quality of political debates and public commentary:
Regardless of how one interprets recent political changes, the evidence shows deficits in respect and civility. We need to discuss how to reduce the levels of sexist, racist and personal abuse instead of serious debates on merit. Equality means both women and men deserve the same respect for who we are, what we do and how we look.
Are these are utopian dreams? They shouldn’t be, because we need to think big to start making even small changes. So let’s work out how to put at least some of these ideas onto the current election policy agendas.