Political Philosophy Part 2

Feminism and political philosophy (pp21)


Women and Inequality - a few notes…

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                                                                                                                                                                             Political Philosophy Contents

For other aspects of feminism, see: (not all completed/uploaded yet…):


Notes on feminism        Simone de Beauvoir (feminism and existentialism)      Feminism: extracts (a small selection of quotes).


Feminism and Postmodernism         Feminism Today (miscellaneous notes on various topics relevant to feminism, taken from the press etc).         


The Women's Movement (a historical account of the activities of women in the movement for liberation).


See also CSR chapter 8 and updates to CSR chapter 8.


Note: dealing with economic inequality separately is not to imply that this is the most serious aspect of the problem of the relation between the sexes, as can be seen from other notes here. Amartya Sen’s contribution below also notes some of these wider aspects.


For socialist feminists, however, economic inequality underlies all the other aspects.


Statistics and notes on women, violence and inequality.



Amartya Sen, the economist, points out that:

- There are some 100 million “missing women” in the world - i.e. women who would be alive today if they had received the same quality of nutrition and health as men.

- Each year some 100 million girls suffer genital mutilation.

- Approximately 1 million children, mostly girls, per year are forced into prostitution.

- In South Asia, female literacy rates are 50% those of males, and in Afghanistan: 32%, Sudan: 27%.

- One third of women in Barbados, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the U.S. report having been sexually abused as children or adolescents.

- In the U.S. in 1993, 1,530 women were killed by their partners.  Each year in the U.S. approximately 7 million women report being subject to various form of physical violence at the hands of their male partners.

Source: notes by Professor Stephen Darwall, University of Michigan - this site has notes on courses at the university of Michigan, on philosophy: see especially course 152.


In Britain:

- One in four women will experience domestic violence according to the British Crime Survey (2009).

- Domestic violence accounts for 16% of all violent incidents reported to police.

- On average, two women a week are killed by their partner or former partner in England and Wales – over 100 a year.

- Women who are abused by their partners are likely to be attacked 20 times before they report it.

Some statistics from 2007 (Emine Sauer, Guardian 24.08.07):

- 81% of domestic violence is committed by men against women.

- Over 50,000 women and children seek safety in refuges every year.

- Up to 10 commit suicide every week.

- Police receive nearly half a million calls a year from women about domestic violence – almost certainly only the tip of the iceberg.

- Only 13,000 cases are considered by the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales.

- Women’s Refuges, and Charities: The first refuge was set up in West London in 1971 by Erin Pizzey, and there are now around 400 refuges in England and Wales.



* November 2009: After the revelation as to the true identity of ‘Belle de Jour’, there has been much discussion of the real nature of prostitution. Tanya Gold (Guardian 17.11.09) quotes a 2003 study published in the Journal of Trauma Practice (after interviews with 854 working prostitutes) in 9 countries: 70 – 90% were physically assaulted, 60 – 75% raped, 65 – 95% had been sexually abused as children, and over two-thirds developed post-traumatic stress disorder (twice the number of Vietnam veterans). According to a 1985 report a prostitute is 40 times as likely to die early – and 89% of prostitutes want out of the ‘profession’.


Women’s Pay:

*November 2009:

- According to D Orr (G 12/11/09) women doctors in the NHS earn 15k less than men.


* November 2008:

- Government figures (Office of National Statistics, November 2008, reported Guardian 06.01.09, and agreed by the Fawcett Society) indicates that men are paid 17.1% more than women for full-time work, and 36.6% more for part-time work. This averages out at 21% (i.e. when take full-time and part-time together).

- Over a lifetime, women will be paid £369,000 less than men in the same full-time jobs.

- Cranfield Business School also showed that the number of women in FTSE executive positions fell in 2007 to the lowest level for 9 years. Only 3 of Britain’s top companies have female chief executives.

- The government’s equalities office is drawing up proposals to ‘name and shame’ companies that do not treat men and women equally. The minister in charge of the equality bill, Vera Baird (solicitor general) is sympathetic to the idea, as is Sarah Veale, TUC’s head of equality and employment rights. ‘Employers have been resisting equality legislation for 35 years (since the Equal Pay Act of 1970, which came into force in 1975)… a voluntary approach hasn’t worked.


NB: Median salary in Britain £24,000 – men: £26,300, women: £20,500.


Women in management:

* September 2007 (G, 050907):

- Chartered Institute of Management report showed the gender pay gap among managers across Britain has widened for the first time in 11 years.

Women managers averaged £43,571 in 2006, men averaged £49,647. Gap averaged at £6,076. Women are quitting their jobs because of this – sometimes to set up their own businesses. The gap had been shrinking from 13.6% of earnings in 2003 to 11.8% in 2005, but in 2006 it was 12.2% (among managers of all grades).

At director level the gap increased from 20% to 23%... The worst gaps are in the food and drinks industry – male mangers earn 46% more than female counterparts. Pensions and insurance: 43.2% (£30,144 to £43,168 – gap of £13,024). HR (!): 40%. Retailing: 33.9%.

Best: IT: 11.7% and public sector and charities: 0.7% (£31,787 to £31,995 – gap of £208).

- NB: More than a third of managers are women, and they are younger than their male counterparts at given levels.

- In 2006, G survey of top 100 companies found only 2 had female chief executives, and their pay lagged well behind the male average.


*November 2007 (Gdn 08.11.07):

- Survey by Institute of Directors also shows: the gender gap is growing for women in senior jobs – female directors are paid up to 26% less than men. The gap has grown from 19% to 22% since last year. The picture is worse in the service and voluntary sectors (see above!) where it is up to 26%.



* February 2008

- Figures from report by Dr Gillian Paull, published in The Economic Journal 2008 (noted by Rosie Boycott, Guardian 28.02.08): after the 1969 Divorce Act, the outlook for women, in terms of ability to take on a career, improved; 36 years on men are no more involved in childcare than they were:

- before having children, 85% of working women are in Full Time employment, after having a child it drops to 34% of mothers of pre-school age children, and 41% of mothers of school-age children.  However, the proportion of men working Full Time after their wife has children goes up. Boycott says: ‘Real equality between men and women is still a pipe dream… The world is still organised to meet the wishes of men.’ She argues that we must legislate to get employers to offer flexi time working that doesn’t mean loss of status and career prospects for women. Every woman in Denmark is entitled to free childcare.


Women in the media:

*July 2007

Peter Wilby (Guardian 02.07.07): although things have changed, there are still only 10% of leading positions on national papers held by women. ‘The macho culture of newspapers dies hard…’

The media contribute to the assumption that women are not ‘up to the job’ – for example, the treatment of Harriet Harman’s election as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party:

- the Daily Mirror had the headline ‘Harriet’s shock win’

- most papers didn’t report the process, but did say that Gordon Brown ‘snubbed’ her by denying her the deputy premiership (though it had been made clear long before that the two posts would not go to the same person)

- a Times lead article said the choice doesn’t reflect well on the party

- the Sun said her election had been a cloud in an otherwise perfect day for Brown, and called her ‘hapless Harriet’

- the Telegraph said that she was poor at administration and has to be heavily briefed before media appearances

- the Mail’s Quentin Letts was especially misogynist: she ‘waddled up on stage’ she was a ‘hectoring, bleating, finger-wagging nanny’ a ‘frightful, posh, humourless ticker-offer’, a ‘monumental, gold-plated, ocean-going hypocrite’

- even female journalists write of the ‘bossy Blair babes’ and ‘horrible Harman’ (Mirror’s Sue Carroll) ‘mad old ladies’ and Harman ‘cannot keep the melon-sliced smirk off her face, grinning like a brain-washed political Moonie’ (Telegraph’s Jan Moir – recently in trouble for her comments on the ‘dangers of a gay lifestyle’). 


Can we imagine this level of political abuse being leveled at a male politician?


Other issues could be discussed as relevant to feminist thought:


Anorexia – primarily a disease of young women – raises questions about body-image, self-worth, control over the body, powerlessness etc.

Madness – ‘hysteria’ was originally something only women could suffer from (the name derives from the Greek for ‘womb’); women who were ‘promiscuous’ and unmarried mothers have been shut away in mental asylums in the past.

Autism as ‘hypermale’ behaviour – inability to communicate with others, complete lack of social awareness and skills, obsessive behaviour involving counting and mechanical operations (collecting objects)… could be the result of over-exposure to male hormones when the infant was in the womb.

Women drivers – it is often alleged that women are worse drivers than men, and yet 94% of fatal accidents are caused by men (particularly young men).