Modern Day Pankhursts

emmiline pankhurst and me.jpg

Emmeline Pankhurst is finally coming back home to Manchester.

The city is going to put a statue of the historic Mancunian in the appropriately located, St Peter’s square. She will be the 2nd female statue in the city and the first woman since the unveiling of Queen Victoria in 1901. 

Pankhurst was a symbol for equality when she was alive, and so it’s quite fitting that she remains so as a statue in modern day.  She will be the first non-royal woman to stand amongst the all-male civic monuments in the city. A slightly troubling fact when we are in 2018 and Pankhurst fought for female voting rights 100 years ago.

The Pankhurst statue ironically reflects equality in our modern times, it reflects a dying but still prevailing mindset. Yes we are making waves, yes women have more freedom and power but nowhere near enough to truly say that both sexes are on equal playing fields. Emmeline is going to stubbornly remind every person of that very fact, as she stands in the most central part of a city that has a long history with fighting for people’s rights.

It’s off to work we go

I was recently asked to be on a panel for International Women’s day at Ziferblat Media City,where we spoke about the gender pay gap for freelancers. I expected the event to be really insightful and inspiring. Something I didn’t expect at all was that it lit a bit of a fire in me.

One of the biggest shocks was realising I wasn’t exempt from how far we haven’t gotten, and that I was part of that story.  I was shocked because I thought that I was fighting the good fight, that I was a modern empowered woman and part of a new world where we were finally being heard. Although that’s still true, I think I was looking too far ahead instead of looking at what is happening right now. A bit like running for the light at the end of the tunnel but not checking to see if anything could trip you up on the way.

 The audience spoke a lot about their own experiences and encapsulated perfectly what we still need to take on. It might not be fighting for the vote, but we still need to fight to be seen as a person beyond gender. Here are some of their stories:

  • A female manager was asked to ‘be a love and get some sandwiches’ in a senior meeting

  • While being assessed for promotion, a young, childless woman was asked whether she was ‘thinking of moving closer to a good school area’.

  • A woman was sacked days after she announced she was pregnant, with the excuse that she’d been under-achieving.

  • A soon-to-be father wanted to take full paternity leave, he was made to feel like a slacker by his co-workers, so he took less leave.

Blaze me a trail

Manchester has never been shy of speaking about what is right or what should change. The city actually invented the weekend, after prominent factory owners (Including Sir Ian McKellen’s ancestor) campaigned for workers’ rights and introduced a half day of rest, which eventually became two consecutive days.  

One of my biggest sources of Manc pride is that I come from the same city as the Suffragettes. It’s not really a coincidence that these trail-blazing feminists came from the city that birthed the industrial revolution. As the Suffragettes were chaining themselves to gates, the Northern city had a surplus of female workers. Women were becoming productive members of society and finally felt empowered to ask for more, both in the workplace and simply as people. The right to be equal, the right to vote.

I’ve always been a feminist. To me it’s like saying I’ve always eaten food and drank water. Feminism = equality, so I’m always down for whatever can bring more equal opportunities for both sexes.

But being a feminist doesn’t exempt me from becoming a delusional optimist. I am often to quick to see good news as the whole story and shy away from darker, lingering facts. I want to the world to be better, so I search for facts that support my views instead of challenging them.

I think we are all a bit guilty of this. So now, every-time we walk past one of the most important women in history we’ll be reminded of that fact. We’ll see a woman from the past pushing us all to move forward and reminding us what’s still left to do. A Mancunian standing guard, an enduring emblem for a city of innovative creatives pushing for a better future.

 

This blog post was sponsored by Six Hot Chicks - a new (UK based) blog centred around developing a more forthright approach to issues affecting women. The blog space is a platform for wholehearted features for and about women and the wider femme community.