Saturday, November 17, 2012

Glorious Feminism

Most people are feminists - it’s wonderful. It’s just that something’s gone wrong with the word feminism so that even some women wouldn’t admit to being one.

If you’ve ever had a female teacher you liked - you’re a feminist. If you’ve ever helped educate a girl - you’re a feminist. If you’ve ever respected a female colleague - you’re a feminist. If you wouldn’t dream of committing rape - you’re a feminist. If you’re still reading these words typed by a woman - you’re a feminist, because you believe I have a right to this voice.

Without feminism you wouldn’t think twice about treating women like animals. Animals you didn’t like very much.

Feminism is just believing that women should have the chance to be treated equal. It doesn’t mean an automatic pass to the top of the tree because we’re trying to make up for a previous imbalance - it just means opening your mind to the idea that women and men can achieve equally.

So why does feminism get so many people angry?

Firstly, I think some people don’t understand why we need feminism. They don’t see the imbalances in the world and they haven’t lived in a generation where women are openly and simply mistreated. It’s sometimes difficult to see the ways the world is geared towards men - how many things are harder not because women aren’t as good but because the task wasn’t created for a woman.

Career paths weren’t built with 2 year gaps in mind to conceive, carry, birth and nurse a child. The vast majority of sports played internationally are concepts designed and perfected on male players, leading to the notion that women are not as good because they have picked up the sport late and play it with different nuances. Marketing departments design and sell the idea that there’s a marked difference between the genders that it’s vitally important we uphold - despite having a civilisation that has the technology to advance past historically vital gender roles. These are just a few of the ways our world isn’t equal, and this is in the West where we are generations ahead of some societies.

Secondly, I think some noisy feminists give the whole concept a bad name. These "militant feminists" who hate men and refuse to shave their legs. Whether they exist or not, the caricature exists in the public's psychi enough to help people switch off whenever the "f" word crops up in conversation.

I think it’s important to understand that to be a feminist isn’t to hate men or blame men. Patriarchy is society’s development based on years of biological necessity and tradition - it’s not your Dad and brother being a git. You cannot empower women by degrading men and you can’t leapfrog intelligent men just to balance the genders - society needs to earn its balance and when it does men and women will benefit equally from standing shoulder to shoulder.

This is why I consider myself a Glorious Feminist - someone who sees feminism as a benefit for men and women alike. I won’t fight for feminism; I will talk for it, debate for it, persuade for it, prove for it, love for it and earn it. But no glorious feminist will fight.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Big What If

So... every now and again an idea might occur to me that I think, "Well... what if?"

Most of the time I'm fairly sure that these ideas have been bandied around and disregarded for some economic reasons that I don't see the full impact of from my cubby hole in the world. But, on this occasion I'm putting an idea out there...

Now, if you have any thing to add or suggest as to why this could have merit or ruin civilised society then please feel free to tell me and let's have a chat. Lovely. Here we go.

The basis of my idea is this:

"Could you have, and would it work, different minimum wages for different levels of qualifications?"

The basic UK minimum wage for over 21 is £6.19 an hour. What if that became the minimum wage only for someone with no qualifications at all?

Beyond that, and this is just as an example and I have given no research into what figures would be practical you could demonstrate something like:

1-5 GCSEs or equivalent - £6.30 an hour
5-10 GCSEs or equivalent - £6.40 an hour

1-4 AS Levels or equivalent - £6.60 an hour
1-4 A Levels or equivalent - £6.70 an hour

A Degree - £7 an hour
Masters Degree - £7.50 an hour

"In a revised version of this scheme, having spent a long time discussing children vs education, GCSEs vs equivalent qualifications, I am wondering if this scheme would have more benefit if actually it ignored University where you would expect graduates to not work for minimum wage in their field, and concentrated on encouraging people to stay in education up until 18.

That way, it is becoming less alienating to those who choose young families, travelling or simply experience on the job over University, but it still offers short term benefits to staying in education."

Obviously, you would have to work out what equivalent qualifications to these got as a minimum wage and it could be squared out accordingly.

To me, this would give young people an incentive to stay in education because it's a difference they will be seeing it in their pocket right from the word go.

I would be interested in someone explaining calmly why exactly people from poorer backgrounds are put off university. I know high tuition fees are terrifying at first but you don't don't pay any of it back until you are qualified and earning a wage. At which point, if we've got the system right, you're back on a level playing field with everyone else who has a degree whatever their parents' earnings. From my understanding of it, not putting up tuition fees is more unfair to people from poorer backgrounds because the money is instead footed from the tax payer - made up of tax payers who didn't go to university. Therefore, people who couldn't afford to go are part funding your degree.

I am from a totally average background, I had a student loan and I funded my whole degree myself by working all the way through it - my parents didn't input. Obviously, I am completely happy to be told I'm wrong if I've missed something but that's my understanding of the situation.

Edit - "Having sat down and thought about the last paragraph I've realised what a smug prick I am. It's not necessarily about whether you borrowed money off your parents to go to uni. It's also about whether your family could all afford to eat if you weren't also working alongside your parents at the age of 16. There are a lot of other factors in "being able to afford things" than it's easy to see. I am quite ashamed of myself."

So, theoretically, and I cannot reiterate this enough - feel free to (politely) contradict me. This scheme could encourage more people into higher education with short term benefits.

A negative I have considered; would it mean that highly qualified people could struggle to get part time work?

At the moment, despite being having a Masters Degree I work for £6.20 an hour doing what, in theory, should be menial office tasks. However, because I'm competent (and I attribute having this ability to my state education) I am often tasked with more complex things to do because my superiors know I can do it. They are getting more for their money than they should.

If my scheme worked correctly, I should just get paid more to do what I do because I'm doing it better than I would have done without my education. Please note - I'm not saying I am doing it better than someone without a degree. Absolutely not. However, a scheme like this would probably blanket over that fact so it is a definite negative to the system. I also have a feeling it would just result in companies only hiring people with minimum skills to save wages.

Could there be an option to agree to work for a lower wage band if you wanted to? So, for example, for the job I am doing now I would be happy to jump down to a GCSE qualified pay band because I only want the job as a back up to comedy and it's not a full time job or career plan.

What this might do, however, is make companies re evaluate exactly how qualified they need people to be for their jobs and give us a better measure of whether it's really worth qualifying ourselves to the hilt? Do I need my Masters degree? Would the tax payers' money and my own have been better spent building a giant
electric wall to keep Tories away from hospitals?

How would a scheme like this react to:

Mavis Bletchley has worked at ASDA for 18 years. She has 8 GCSEs. She earns £6.40 an hour.

Joanne Lovett has joined ASDA after completing her degree and now earns 60p more an hour than Mavis despite having no experience in the job.

Presumably companies would still keep loyalty based pay rises in place if they had been there previously?

Would this cause education based hierachys in the work place, and if so, is that a bad thing? There are already hierachys in the work place - surely education can't be the worst thing to base it on?

Anyway, there's some ideas world. Run with it, find the holes in it and please tell me (calmly and politely) and lets have a chat...