Real Women policy paper debate: live blog #ldconf

With my technological fingers crossed, here we go…

[Several people in the hall are also tweeting through the debate. You can keep up with their and other conference tweets through this search link. The policy paper is available to read here. And yes, it is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, hence this.]

The votes:

  1. Amendment 1 (female representation): passed overwhelmingly
  2. Amendment 2 (air-brushing): overwhelmingly defeated
  3. Amendment 3 (sport): passed overwhelmingly
  4. Separate vote (on name blank employment): lines overwhelmingly retained
  5. Motion as a whole: passed overwhelmingly

Lynne Featherstone (summating on the motion): concentrates on name-blank employment and on air-brushing. Draws parallel with exam marking where names are removed in order to stop some forms of bias and highlights evidence from Department of Work and Pensions of the impact that name-blanking can have. On air-brushing – it’s about tackling conformity and not accepting the values of global industries. It’s about making the operation of those industries open and honest.

Laura Willoughby (summating on amendment over sports coverage): “I had to give up rugby when I was eleven – I think that was to protect the young men actually”. “Association Football is the top female sport in the UK” – but women’s football matches get very little coverage and very little interest from sports journalists. “We do just as much sport – and we’d like to see just as much of it.”

Bernard Salmon (summating on the amendment over airbrushing): compares proposals to Tory attempts to ban rave music in the 1990s. Doesn’t think the proposals will work as there are many way to alter people’s appearance without altering photos, e.g. plastic surgery. Also opposes name blanking proposals. He doesn’t believe they will work, as discrimination takes place all the way through the employment process and other information in a CV can give away someone’s gender etc.

Neil Fawcett: “I’m afraid I’m not the other Fawcett. She wasn’t available.” Talks about his experience as a father: “The one thing I really didn’t expect was just how much peer pressure my daughters would face.” Defends air-brushing proposal as being specific measure to tackle dishonesty in advertising.

Elaine Bagshaw: media promotes an image of how women should appear that is “unrealistic and unattainable”, which produces great pressures on young women growing up. Moves on to talk about the urgency of tackling the gender pay gap.

Katy Gordon: “Even Marilyn Monroe would be considered fat by today’s standards”. Took the policy paper to a women’s group in Glasgow and asked them what they thought of media images of women. All of them backed the idea of warning in some way of photos that had been airbrushed. “However good a parent you are, you are up against the might of the beauty industry and the media.”

Ettie Spencer: talks of her personal experiences of women who struggle with weight issues, including a sister with anorexia. “I’ve been shocked by the effects of the peer pressures I observe.” Protecting the health and well-being of children is more important than protecting the advertising industry.

Henry Vann: Less than 10% of FTSE350 directors are female. Praises the paper’s approach on equal pay and talks of the importance of the issue. “Labour have failed on gender equality”.

Erin Harvey: talks about human trafficking. Regrets that the policy paper says little about the issue other than a freephone line. “I hope that this paper will not be a missed opportunity.”

Elizabeth Jewkes: every week in Britain, two women are killed by their partners or ex-partners. Talks about stark choices many women face, driving ten a week to suicide. Half of all female murder victims are killed by their partner or ex-partner. For men the figure is less than one in twenty.

Jacquie Bell: talks about people who have to care for adults. Childcare arrangements are very important – but don’t forget the burdens of caring for adults.

Now for a series of one minute ‘interventions’ from microphones on the floor of the hall: Anna Arrowsmith – in favour of proposals on air-brushing of photos. Martha Vickers – motion makes no mention of domestic violence, though it is covered in the policy paper. Kevin O’Connor – talks about work/life balance issue for families bringing up children. Welcomes proposals in the paper for more flexible work arrangements, including for men. Andrew Hudson – regrets that international issues don’t get a mention, nor do honour killings and forced marriages in this country. Susan Gaszczak – talks in favour of air-brushing proposals. Expresses concerns over what her children see on TV. Belinda Brookes-Gordon – also in favour of proposals about digital retouching. Justine McGuiness – speaks against name blanking employment proposals, saying they are overly prescriptive. Susan Knight – equal rights in law haven’t turned in to equal rights in real life – there is still much to do. Robert Adamson – supports the motion. Eleanor Bell – also supports the motion, particularly the provisions on retouching of photos.

Jeremy Hargreaves: also speaks in defence of the “name blanking” job application proposals, highlighting the risk of subconscious discrimination especially when people are applying for their first job and so have relatively limited other information on their CV.

Anna Pascoe: supports the “name blanking” job application proposals.

Keith Angus: gives unequivocal support for the motion. “Parts of it make me feel a little uncomfortable”, but “it’s the very parts that make me feel uncomfortable that will make the biggest difference”. Some friendly heckling when he says he works at a bank in the City. The proposals “underline that we are a party about freedom”.

Jill Hope: expresses doubts about how wide-ranging the motion is and bemoans timing of debate so early in conference. Also talks about provision of midwives and the tragedies which flow from shortages. It’s a critical issue which should be given more than just one line in the motion.

Claire Jackson: moves Amendment 3, which is about the lack of attention given to women’s sports compared to men’s sports. Criticises government for failing to ensure free to air coverage of major female sporting events.

Bernard Salmon: moves Amendment 2, which would remove proposals to tackle air-brushing in adverts. It recognises the problem but says it can best be tackled, “through a process of cultural change rather than by regulation by the state.” His speech focuses on whether the proposals are workable and whether the answer to the problem is regulation.

Dinti Batstone: moves Amendment 1, which adds reference to empowering women to play a full part in politics. ”Not a single female Liberal Democrat MP was first elected while bringing up young children.”

Motion introduced by Jo Swinson MP. Referring to the paper’s magazine-like layout, Jo Swinson says the policy paper “is a wee bit different … some people have even read it … Women want to feel happy, healthy and confident.” Gives heavy emphasis to the way the policy paper will give people and businesses flexibility to suit personal circumstances, such as sharing parental leave and part-time working. Criticises the 27% gender pay gap at the Treasury. “Women need to know when they are being paid less for the same job” – a reference to the paper’s support for pay audits.

“Challenging the commercial driven conformity of the perfect woman’s body has certainly ruffled a few feathers. Those feathers should be ruffled … The image is false … It’s dishonest, it’s harmful and it’s got to change.” A large chunk of her speech is about the air-brushing proposals in the paper – which an amendment proposes removing.

“When you leave conference, don’t recycle this policy paper along with the rest. Reuse it … tell every woman you know.”

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