Elections are underway for a new Green Party Women's committee and following the recent hustings (link to follow), we dealt with written questions. These are my responses as a candidate for Co-Chair:
Question for Co-chairs:
Q- What will you do to resolve the conflict GPW has had around the sex /
gender debate over the last couple of years?
A- The solutions are best found by involving more voices/views
and yet there are so many who have been excluded from discussions because the
environment has become hostile and cruel. We must be able to speak, even if we
don’t get the words all correct and especially if our voices quake. We need a
space for this discussion that does not involve being shouted down or labelled
in ways that are just not true.
We also need to ‘quarantine’ (not sure the best word?) this subject so that it stops dividing us and tainting all the other aspects of our Party; making it seem this is all we are about. Members and voters expect the Green Party to be a political party focused on protecting life on earth and striving for system change to enable the best outcomes for all. We know that media and other parties are using this conflict to demean and degrade us so that we fail and so… we must unite in agreement that this conflict will be addressed.
Q- What's the *first* step you would take in moving GPW beyond the debates that mire us down, so that we can actually start getting things done again
(lifting up women's environmental activism)?
A- Request the same circumstances that have enabled Young Greens to become the largest group within the party – auto-enrolment. When new members join and fill-in their details – if they match the criteria for Young Greens – they are automatically a member of the group and receive welcoming emails and engagement from the start (with an opt-out for those not wanting it) – for all other criteria, this doesn’t happen. I don’t understand why it’s different for the Greens of Colour, Seniors, Disability and Women’s groups - each would benefit hugely if this could be implemented.
have come to realise that good outcomes come when we have many more voices in
the conversation and I believe that GPW when populated with many more members,
Questions for All Candidates:
Q- Male violence
against women is not high on all agendas as it should
be and too many males just can't or won't take responsibility. "Not all
males" is the usual deflection. How will GPW address this issue with GP
males?(for context, 2-3 women a week are murdered by their partners and
rape cases are increasing in the UK although convictions are down)
A- I recognise this and like most women, have relatable
experience; the fear, limitation and perhaps worst of all – the dismissiveness
that this is the massive problem that it is. A strong women’s group could and
should be bringing this issue to members and requesting support at actions,
campaigns and policies that will address it. The Green Party men I know (maybe
I’m lucky?) are already supportive and I don’t doubt that the ones I don’t know
are too but there is no opportunity or situation in which we discuss this in
any meaningful way. The past few years of conflict over sex/gender have made
this even harder to discuss and created more division. GPW though can continue
to champion the rights of women to live without the threat of violence and for
laws and sentencing to reflect this. Joining with other women’s groups with the
same aims will ensure we have the numbers and volume to achieve more.
Q- What events, meetings etc would you organise for Green Party Women?
A- I’d hope to see our participation with other women’s groups of all sorts in order to expand our reach, enrich our network and understanding and truly begin to represent the rich diversity of women. From rallying and protesting around key issues for and about women – to joining as women together to tackle environment and social challenges.
Unity and power in a group are strengthened by social and
creative events and we’ve seen how popular and enjoyable GPW’s book club, yoga
and chat rooms could be (during the first lock-down, they helped to keep us
connected and provided a calm, welcoming and warm place to be online when all
around was becoming so unfamiliar; huge thanks to those on the committee that
made this happen)… my experience amongst women in the anti-fracking movement
was made all the more rewarding because we sang, danced, shared food, learned crafts
from each other and found our unity outside of political/personal opinions.
I would also love to see us aim for a yearly ‘Women’s Conference’ not just as Green Party women but to have an inclusive conference open to all women.
Q- Women are crying out for a left-leaning political home. Why is the
Green Party failing to provide this leadership and how could you help to
reverse this lack?
A- I see this too, the need to provide a place for the politically
homeless as well as ‘naturally Green members’ and the opportunity we’re missing
in not reaching out to them. Our party has exceptional social as well as
environmental policies and at the last election, I often felt that Labour was
reading from our manifesto! There have been mistakes I think in the way we have
engaged potential new members who’ve come from other parties – a genuine warm
welcome would be an excellent start.
As a women’s group we can cross political and other divides and work, engage and unite with women of all parties and none, to achieve goals together ie: defend a women’s refuge against closure, support victims’ groups, join actions or create them around the impacts of climate and the lives of women across the world etc. We need to BE open and welcoming and inclusive of all women from differing backgrounds, beliefs, abilities and politics and in doing this, we will grow.
Q- Is changing gender the same as changing sex and are there
implications for policy if they are not the same thing? Including, how
can GPW act effectively to advance the interests of women as a sex class
if male non-binary people are included in the group?
A- No the terms gender and sex refer to different aspects of a person. Gender is how we express ourselves and can be fluid throughout our lives, whereas sex is about our physical state ie: anatomy/biology that is observed and noted at birth.
In matters of policy (particularly around healthcare) it is
essential that the terms gender and sex are not misused.
I see Green Party Women as being about so much more than protecting women’s sex-based rights - but our sex-based rights are at the core of the group’s purpose. GPW must be an inclusive group for all women of every race, class, ability and religion and the introduction of male non-binary members can lead to the exclusion of women who due to religion, personal beliefs or experiences etc. will not be able to participate in a mixed-sex group.
*I wanted to check ‘official’ use of the terms sex and gender and the Office of National Statistics definitions do in fact match my understanding.
[The UK government defines
Sex as: referring to the biological aspects of an individual as determined by their anatomy, which is produced by their chromosomes, hormones and their interactions generally male or female
Gender as: a social construction relating to behaviours and attributes based on labels of masculinity and femininity; gender identity is a personal, internal perception of oneself and so the gender category someone identifies with may not match their sex - where an individual may see themselves as a man, a woman, as having no gender, or as having a non-binary gender – where people identify as somewhere on a spectrum between man and woman]
(ALL candidates' answers here: Candidates 2022 written answers to hustings questions - Green Party Women)