Jeremy, it is admirable that you have taken up the 'women's' issue. It is necessary for women's position in society to be free from discrimination and for equality of opportunity and treatment to be the norm. However, what is missing is the recognition of equality of worth for those who work, unwaged, outside the paid economy.
The mainstream parties - and The Women's Equality Party who no doubt influenced you in your policy on women - continue to forget is that there is more to life than the 'public sphere', that many women are desperate for greater choice in how they set up family life, including caring for their babies and young children themselves instead of compelled employment and childcare. Childcare has its place - but for women who would prefer to care for their own children, but cannot, they are being offered a wooden spoon. Those who sacrifice an income to care for their children are cut loose and marginalised - we don't even feature, yet our financial and personal vulnerabilities are huge. Please think more creatively about the Right to Care, the need for recognition of the unwaged work of care, and abolition of the family tax penalty, for starters. Mothers are women too. Equality - when predicated on masculine concepts of work in the public sphere - is, in this context, a poor sister of justice.To quote Marie Peacock, chair of Mothers at Home Matter,
"Until the establishment accepts that 'equality' exists as a human right that applies regardless of employment status at various stages of the family life cycle (for example when caring/in unpaid work) then they will continue to foist upon us a 'tick-box' model of 'all adults in equal number of hours in paid employment'. Because who would deny they want equality?! Except it's not equality at all, it's about feeding GDP, sold as facilitating equality. At the same time it's strange how little attention is paid to the ever-longer hours low paid people need to work compared to others on ever-increasing incomes. Where's the 'equality' in that?"
For context, 40% of 6,200 mothers told the Department for Education last year, in a study published in March 2016, that if they could only afford it they would stop working outside the home to provide the care to their children themselves.
The Women's Equality Party may quote women who fit the ideology: stay at home mums who told them that they were desperate to get back to work, and those who want to share care, and those who want affordable childcare. They have conveniently neglected to tell you of the thousands of women who ALSO told them that they want more support to be able to care for their families themselves: they told the party this individually and through the sub-group I headed of the policy working group, via their mouthpiece of Mothers at Home Matter .
In response to your facebook post on this issue yesterday, Suzi Rodriguez, for example, said:
"Please help to start to recognise caring in the home as a valuable contribution to society. Stay at home parents and carers are forgotten about, in the race to get everyone out to work. Parenting and caring is important and valuable and not everyone wants to outsource childcare to go out to work, and many are forced to #mothersathomemattertoo"- many have taken the time to agree with her.
Mothers are calling out for political recognition and economic policies which recognise the value of what we do when we care for our children, the way in which we are prevented financially from doing it and the need for family life to be respected. 9 million women were missing from the 2010 general election - the Labour party launched its 2015 women's manifesto in a children's nursery. : at some point, please, Labour, ask yourself: why are we neglecting the wishes of many many women in this country? Why is the ideology of universal childcare (to free us to capitalist exploitation) so universally accepted by politicians when it is far from universally desired by families on the ground? 9 million missing women. I wrote a pamphlet for 2015 General Election entitled The Politics of Mothering in which I explained that mothers who want to care for their children but cannot - or those who do but are marginalised and financially struggling - are disenfranchised. Equality? It can't even begin so long as the wishes of so many women are neglected, dismissed or silenced and when the honour of equality is only bestowed with a paycheck.
Please expand your 'women's' agenda. Don't be confined to 'equality': think equity, justice and fair distribution of wealth and labour. Unwaged care is the biggest proportion of the unpaid economy. It is crucial work, for the benefit of society and the future wellbeing of our citizens. Yet, to use the terms of the left: society freeloads upon our labour, It marginalises those doing it. Yet we are continually ignored in policy - recognised only in 'human capital' and 'economic productivity' with a PAYE code attached. We are disenfranchised and ignored by the political class. Time for someone to recognise this.
After all, don't you want our votes?
I will be speaking at The World Transformed on the Future of Work panel and about Liberating Motherhood. Jeremy I would like to speak to you there: mothers at home might not get the mic; mothers in their jobs with the second shift on top of small children and a home to run might not have the energy or time or networks or opportunities to convey all this to you. But please listen. We are here. We are mothers. We too are women. We could be Labour.