Amid the political contest of who will be the new Prime Minister, almost all candidates are pulling the F word out of their sleeve. The Feminist. I sat down for a straightforward conversation with Dr. Miroslav Baros, a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, to talk about feminism and in what ways The Wives of Westminster project can help improve the role of women in today’s society.

Where do we stand with women’s equal position in today’s Britain?

DR. BAROS: Women have made clear progress in the society one could argue in the last century, the right to vote, being elected to a public office, a certain degree of equality of employment, financial liberalisation, etc. It should not be forgotten that only about 40 years ago in some societies they would not issue married women credit card in their name, like in the US for example.

OK, in the UK, financial liberalisation occurred earlier with the Married Women’s Property Act, 1870. It also must be appreciated that much non-discrimination legislation came because of our country’s membership in the EU.

There is much more to be done I would say. I like this thought: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead).

What contributes to the inequality of women in your view today?

DR. BAROS: That is a very good question. It is rather a subtle and complex, multifaceted issue. There is a silent and underlying attitude that permeates public life today, which is not conducive to erasing this inequality.

If you look at equal pay and employment rights, for example, there is plenty to be achieved. But to me, the most harmful phenomenon in modern society is an objectification of a woman’s body.

Magazines and fashion industry deliberately and relentlessly pursue a strategy of targeting young girls by explicitly advocating a particular look and importance of appearance. That leads to seeing a woman’s body as an object, which again leads to increased sexual and other forms of violence towards women and maintaining inequality.  

We heard some female MPs protesting against the ‘The Wives of Westminster’ calling a political spouse ‘irrelevant’. Is the fight for gender equality over because we have now female MPs?

DR. BAROS: Having women as MPs does not signify an end of history. It’s about substance, not a form. The fact that we have female MPs more than ever does not indicate that the fight for equality is over. There is a worrying and pervasive attitude about women’s role and participation in society that contributes to maintaining inequality.

Those who qualify ‘political spouse irrelevant’, in my mind exactly confirm the validity and desirability of The Wives of Westminster (TWOW) initiative! Their attitude is actually based very much on perceiving women unequal with its patronising or even arrogant tone.

DR. Baros, Sheffield Hallam University,

Why do you think the TWOW initiative is relevant for gender equality in the times we are living?

DR. BAROS: There is a significant increase in violence against women. A statistic was provided in Bedroom Tax case that two women every week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales!

Participation, position, and security of women in society today, generally are affected negatively by austerity and other recent developments and this requires a more active response and adequate narrative to be addressed. Women are disproportionately affected by austerity as recognised by a UN envoy in this recent report on economic, social and cultural rights in the UK (December, 2018)

How can we improve gender equality and the position of women today?

DR. BAROS: Recognise any sign of inequality however small and tackle it. Take a stand. Don’t take progress for granted. And don’t forget: women had to fight for their rights; it’s not that they were given entitlements and freedoms by “generous” governments!

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Read also: The Good Wife: The Evolving Role Of A Modern Political Spouse

Nevena Bridgen
Nevena Bridgen

Founder

Nevena Bridgen is the Founder of The Wives of Westminster. She is an opera singer and a wife of MP Andrew Bridgen.

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