March 8th, International Women’s Day, can never be a full celebration of all womankind while large swathes of women are part of the ‘left behind’ debate. It is these women who should be put centre stage today because the female talent pool being celebrated is only partly representative of all of us.
Women flourish best in a left-leaning political environment. Compass’ Good Society advocates equality, democracy and sustainability as core building blocks. Inherent in these is the accommodation needed for full female participation in all spheres of life through structural and social change.
By contrast, the faultline in the provision of women’s welfare is the rollback of the state by a divisive right-wing agenda under the auspices of neoliberalism. This neoliberal framework disregards female representation in society except for the participation of women in the workforce. The female citizenship is predicated upon her ability to work and pay taxes – but without drawing a benefit from the state.
Women on welfare, disabled women who cannot work, women on low incomes, women struggling to access adequate public-sector provision for their children and women having to choose between eating or heating their home for the family are the ‘left-behind’.
The Good Society is an extension of feminism because it recasts society as an inter-relational experience. While the neoliberal agenda cannot accommodate the intersection between women’s subjective experiences and the market, the Good Society can by providing a centre-left ground on which women’s issues such as domestic violence, child care, benefits for single mothers, a universal basic income and sexual harassment can be adequately addressed.
Having a female Prime Minister has not made a jot of a difference to women’s rights. In fact, I am reminded of the feminists who during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership held up placards that read: ‘We want women’s rights, not a right-wing woman’.
On International Women’s Day it is the women who struggle against the odds who most need celebrating.