Every Woman: An IWD Post | Sarah Stook
For most of history, anonymous was a woman- Virginia Woolf.
International Women’s Day rolls around every year on the 8th March. A celebration of women, it means different things to different people. Some use it to encourage discussion about issues that tend to affect women more than men- genital mutilation, child marriage and lack of education. Some use it to encourage women in the political sphere. Others use it to support women they admire- from prime ministers to their very own amazing mothers. It’s not a completely uncontroversial day- people question why we need it in this day and age whilst others, quite fairly, ask where International Men’s Day is. What’s for sure is that it is a day that always generates a remarkable amount of discussion.
A lot of people feel that the left has a monopoly on women. As a rule, women are more likely liberal in their political views and there seems to be this idea that the right, especially the Republicans in the US do not appreciate ladies and that there is a ‘War on Women.’ Yet, we have plenty of amazing, strong conservative women all across the world. A good amount of our readers are conservative, as are many voters and politicians, including our Prime Minister. We can use International Women’s Day to celebrate the many incredible women in our movement as well and to see what needs to be done for women around the world.
What our contributors say:
Ruth Davidson: Ruth Davidson MSP is without a doubt, my favourite conservative woman. Ruth is the face of modern conservatism not just in Scotland but across the UK. It is impossible to understate the role that she played in detoxifying the conservative brand in Scotland. Under Ruth’s leadership, we have gone from being the ‘nasty party’ to a real alternative to the left-wing nonsense that has dominated Scotland’s politics for far too long. She gave people like me a voice.
I first became involved in politics through the Better Together campaign. The energy that Ruth brought to the campaign was truly remarkable. As I got more involved and began to pay more attention to politics, it wasn’t long before I realised that it was not only a steadfast commit to preserving the United Kingdom that I shared with Ruth. I found that I agreed with her on most issues. Not long after the 2015 General Election, I joined the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party and have never for a second doubted my decision.
Baroness Anne Jenkin of Kennington: Along with Theresa May in 2005, Baroness Kennington founded the group Women2Win, which works with both male and female MPs in the Conservative Party to scout out, promote and train prospective female candidates for Parliament, but also in public life in general. The group has been hugely influential and has played a role in boosting the number of female Conservative MPs from 17 in 2005 to 67 in 2018.
Many conservative commentators are reluctant to endorse what might be seen as “positive discrimination” by utilising women-only shortlists, or parachuting women into safe seats in order to artificially increase female representation. That is why Women2Win is an important group within the party – instead of selecting women for candidacy on the basis of them being women alone, the group instead identifies conservative women and seeks to help them become good candidates.
For this reason, Baroness Kennington is my choice of influential female conservative. She has taken a core conservative principle of “a hand-up, not a hand-out” and sought to apply it to an area of public life that is increasingly subject to the cultural leftism of artificial social engineering. In a time when increased diversity in representation matters, we must be sure to make the representation substantively good, instead of merely formally good – more women in parliament means nothing if they are not confident, good representatives. And frankly, many men could stand to learn a thing or two from them.
Ayn Rand: Ayn Rand may have not been a conservative in her time, but it is unarguable that Rand’s works are regarded today as one of the backbones of modern conservatism. Ayn Rand wrote about her philosophy of ‘Objectivism’, which states that the most moral objective in life is to pursue your own happiness, and that altruism (the idea that a person exists to sacrifice himself) as a moral standard, is inherently destructive. Her ideas on objective reality, reason, self-interest and capitalism can be found in the views and ethos of conservatives today. The idea that people pursuing their own rational self-interest and their own happiness is the highest moral purpose in life. The notion that one man shouldn’t be a slave to another, nor victims and executioners, but traders, voluntary exchanging services and capital for mutual benefit is an idea that underpins capitalism as we know it. Her concept of equality, in which her idea that every person has a chance in life to make of themselves what they want, is still repeated today in speeches by neo-liberals, conservatives and libertarians. Another idea of her philosophy that the state should exist only to protect the rights of the people and keeping the state out of the capitalist markets is a favourite of the libertarian-leaning right of today. Whilst she was not the first to think of many of these ideas, she was one of the first to consolidate them all into one cohesive philosophy and structure of principles. And she did this brilliantly in her works.
Rand was also a brilliant author as well as philosopher, her most notable works including ‘Atlas Shrugged’, ‘The Fountainhead’, and ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’. In these books she grapples with problems of humanities existence and applies her philosophy to give answers. What motivates a creative thinker? Is selfishness inherently bad? With themes such as independence, reason, the ethics of business and capitalism and good vs. evil. Given the current political climate of the world, the themes and ideas explored by both her works and philosophy are now more relevant than ever.
Nikki Haley: Former Governor of South Carolina and current United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley is one of the most prominent conservative women in contemporary politics. Popular in her time as governor during mass floods and the tragic Charleston shooting which triggered questions over the Confederate flag were raised, she has proven herself strong, resourceful and quick in her time as UN Ambassador. A fierce defender of her country, Haley time and time shows a moral compass in which she questions the UN on their anti-Israel bias as well as their many, many other faults. Never one to shy away from a challenge, she is always sharp and direct with her words in a way that is both diplomatic and independent. More importantly, on social media and in interaction, she shows herself to be warm and genuine, proving that one does not need to be cruelly ambitious to be respected.
She is a woman unapologetically so she is and unashamed of herself. The daughter of Punjabi immigrants who moved to the US to seek a better life, she proudly shares the contribution her parents made to the United States, especially as entrepreneurs. Haley also shows pride in being a woman and what women can do without using it as an excuse to be held back or as a reason to vote for her (unlike some women). Unlike some who have made politics a profession, she has experience working for her family business amongst others- even becoming president of the National Association of Women Business Owners. Seeing a strong, intelligent conservative woman succeeding in everything from academia to business and finally to politics is something inspiring to me. Haley will definitely go far in life not only due to her credentials, but due to her poise, tenacity and independence- something you always want to see.
Conservative Female Firsts (UK):
First Conservative MP: Nancy Astor (1919)
First Cabinet Minister: Florence Horsbrugh, Baroness Horsbrugh (1951-Minister for Education)
First Deputy Speaker: Betty Harvie Anderson (1970)
First Leader of the Opposition: Margaret Thatcher (1975)
First Prime Minister/First in Great Office of State: Margaret Thatcher (1979)
First Leader of the House of Lords: Janet Young, Baroness Young (1981)
First Home Secretary: Theresa May (2010)
First Leader of the Scottish Conservatives: Ruth Davidson (2011)
Conservative Female Firsts (USA):
First Representative: Jeannette Rankin (1916)
First Senator: Gladys Pyle (1938)
First State Attorney-General: Matilda Dodge Wilson (1940)
First Presidential Candidate: Margaret Chase Smith (1964)
First Cabinet Secretary: Carla Anderson Hills (1975)
First Associate Justice of SCOTUS: Sandra Day O’Connor (1981)
First State Governor: Kay A. Orr (1987)
First on a Presidential Ticket: Sarah Palin (2008)
Landmarks for women’s rights in the UK:
1507: Catherine of Aragon is created the Ambassador of the Aragonese Crown- the first female ambassador in not only the UK, but Europe.
1545: Prayers or Meditations is published. It was written by Catherine Parr, and was the first book published in England by a woman under her own name.
1553: If one does not include Matilda and Lady Jane Grey, who are both disputed, Mary Tudor became the first female monarch of England.
1603: Elizabeth I dies. Her death ends the Tudor reign, but she establishes herself one of the most famous women in the world and she is still beloved by many today.
1792: Mary Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Women. One of the most famous proto-feminists of our time, her views on equality- especially saying that women deserved the same rights as men and that they should be educated beyond domesticity- were hugely radical for the late 18th century.
1865: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson becomes the first woman to qualify in the medical profession in the UK. Her better known sister is Millicent Fawcett, the famous suffragist and founder of the NUSWW.
1882: Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 is passed. Married women now owned and controlled their own property, prior to this; their husbands would immediately take control of it. The law now recognised husband and wife as separate entities as opposed to one. They were now responsible for their own finances, which included the payment of debts.
1893: Married Women’s Property Act of 1893 is passed. Married women could now control property and finances that were acquired during marriage, supplementing the own income they brought as a result of matrimony.
1915: Edith Smith became the first female police officer with full powers of arrest.
1918: Representation of the People Act 1918 is passed. Working class men gain the vote, whilst property owning women (or those married to a property owner) over 30 gain the vote.
1918: Constance Markievicz is voted in as the first female MP in the House of Commons. As a member of Sinn Féin, she did not take her seat.
1919: Nancy Astor of the Conservative Party is the first female MP to take her seat. She was a member of the government until 1945.
1922: Helena Normanton becomes the first female barrister to practice in England.
1922: Equal inheritance between men and women.
1928: Representation of the People’s Act (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 is passed. Women can now vote on equal terms as men at the age of 21.
1929: Margaret Bondfield becomes the first female Cabinet member in the UK, Minister of Labour under Ramsay MacDonald.
1970: The Equal Pay Act 1970 is passed. After the Ford Dagenham plant strikes and the intervention of Employment Minister Barbara Castle, the act is brought into law.
1975: Women no longer need their husband’s permission to open a bank account.
1975: The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 is passed, protecting both men and women from discrimination based on sex.
1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister of the UK.
1985: Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 is passed, prohibiting all types of FGM. Nobody has ever been prosecuted of course, but that’s another kettle of fish.
1991: The marital rape exemption is finally abolished in England and Wales. Scotland had gotten rid of this two years earlier.
1992: Betty Boothroyd becomes first Speaker of the House of Commons.
2007: The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act of 2007 is passed (doesn’t apply to Scotland due to devolution). It protests forced marriage victims and provides them with legal assistance.
2014: Nicola Sturgeon becomes the first female First Minister of Scotland.
2016: Theresa May becomes the second female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Issues Still Facing Women Predominantly:
Child Marriage: Though boys are still also sadly forced into child marriage, various social reasons and laws (17 countries have different minimum marriageable age, all higher for men), it is usually girls that are on the receiving end of it. In the United Kingdom, there isn’t a lot of data but certain communities try to marry off girls as young as 11 or 12- something that often flies under the radar when done in illegal ceremonies or where the girls are sent abroad. Whilst UNICEF recently reported that 25 million child marriages have been prevented in the past decade, with the number dropping from 1 in 4 to 1 in 5, there is still a long way to go. It is particularly a problem in Africa and parts of Asia, with Sub-Saharan Africa providing the biggest problem.
UNICEF provided the following data. Firstly, the top five countries with the highest rates of child marriage are the following:
- Niger- 76%
- Central African Republic- 68%
- Bangladesh- 59%
- Burkina Faso- 52%
The top 5 countries with the highest absolute number of child marriage are the following:
- India- 26,610,000
- Nigeria- 3,306,000
- Ethiopia- 1,974,000
FGM: Illegal since 1985 in the UK but with no prosecutions, FGM is a problem around the world. Usually done to girls under five to ‘get’ them done early, FGM is often done by traditional practitioners with little to no medical training or by female members of their own family. Reasons include: controlling a woman’s sexuality, curbing apparent promiscuity, improving her marital prospects and preserves virginity (because when people who have had FGM have sex, it can hurt).
In 1995, the World Health Organization developed the four categories of FGM, each increasing in severity:
Type 1 (clitoridectomy): Removing the clitoral hood, sometimes with or without removal of part or all of the clitoris.
Type 2 (excision): Complete removal of the clitoris, sometimes with all or part of the labia minora.
Type 3 (infibulation): Removal of all or part of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora. Stitching and/or narrowing of the vaginal opening- leaving it open for urine and menstruation.
Type 4 (unclassified): All other type of FGM including incisions to the vaginal wall and incision of the clitoris and labia.
Type 1 and 2 are the most common, but the other two are not unheard of, especially in common FGM countries such as Somalia.
There are NO known health benefits, but have short and long term health effects. Short term/immediate health effects include:
- Intense pain, possibly even haemorrhaging. A good majority will feel intense pain; some even go into shock because of it.
- Becoming anaemic due to loss of blood.
- Infection, especially tetanus. In around half of cases, the tetanus is fateful.
- Damage to nearby organs, especially when done by non-professionals.
- Urine retention.
Long-term health effects:
- Painful menstruation.
- Recurrent UTIs
- Abscesses and cysts.
- Increased risk of maternal mortality, dangerous labour and chance of infant mortality. Those who have had FGM are more likely to give birth to stillborn children and twice as likely to die in childbirth.
- Psychological effects, especially anxiety and depression.
- Increased risk of HIV from unsterilized instruments.
UNICEF reported that the top 5 countries for FGM are:
- Somalia (98%)
- Guinea (96%)
- Djibouti (93%)
- Egypt (91%)
- Eritrea (89%)
Lack of Education: One of the biggest barriers to women in the world is a lack of education. Like with FGM and child marriage, there are a myriad of factors as to why girls are less likely to complete education, go to school or be as literate. These are diverse: schools are far away which is dangerous, parents are also uneducated, when education is expensive they favour sons, parents are ill or they are too poor. Illiteracy rates vary by region- it’s 1.9% in Europe and Central Asia as compared to 35.7% in Sub Saharan Africa.
According to UNESCO, here are the top five countries for female illiteracy:
- Niger (11%)
- South Sudan (19.2%)
- Guinea (22.8%)
- Afghanistan (24.2%)
- Central Africa Republic (24.4%)
The largest discrepancies between male and female are as follows:
- Yemen (30.1%- 85.1%/55.0%)
- Liberia (29.6%-62.4%/32.8%)
- Mozambique (27.9%-73.3%/45.4%)
- Afghanistan (27.8%-52.0%/24.2%)
- Pakistan (26.9%-69.6%/42.7%)
Domestic Violence: Domestic violence is common in many forms across the world, and is another
thing that is also affecting men increasingly- but yet again, predominantly affects women especially in certain countries. Physical violence is not always as common as emotional, mental or financial abuse- as physical abuse leaves scars, but all occur with saddening frequency. It’s not always illegal- some countries it is legal, others it is incredibly hard to prove it and others live in societies where it’s just not talked about.
A UNICEF 2013 study found that percentages of women between 15 and 49 in certain countries approve of a man’s right to physically hurt a female partner. The top 5 were as follows:
- = Afghanistan/Jordan (90%)
- Mali (87%)
- South Sudan (79%)
- Tajikistan (74%)
- =Niger and Uzbekistan (70%)
WHO has the following statistics on domestic violence:
- An estimated 1 in 3 (35%) have experienced physical/sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
- Almost 1/3 (30%) in their lifetime have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner
- Roughly 38% of murders of women are committed by their male partners
- 42% of women who have been physically abused have got an injury because of said violence
- Women who have been physically assaulted are 16% more likely to suffer a miscarriage and 41% to have a premature child
- Intimate partner violence leads to a higher likelihood of child morality
- Those who have been physically or sexually abused are 1.5 times more likely to have a STI, even HIV in some regions
Abuse occurs mostly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Rape/Sexual Abuse: Rape and sexual assault happen all over the world- it may be more common in some areas, but we hear many stories of it in our native UK. Though these are more likely to occur in warzones and unstable regions- Somaliland and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (particularly in the East), they happen throughout the world. Both possessive feelings about women, the desire of power (rape is about power, not sex) and the fact that many, many will get away without repercussions makes it sadly common place- especially when the government ignores it.
A UN study found that the most common reasons for non-partner rape were as follows:
- Sexual Entitlement (79%)
- Entertainment Seeking (59%)
- Anger/punishment (38%)
- Alcohol/substance use (27%)
The laws regarding rape, especially by husbands, is sketchy at best in many countries. In 12 countries around the world, a settlement with the victim of their family allows a rapist to avoid prosecution: Belgium, Croatia, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Palestine, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Singapore and Thailand.
In 6 countries (three have banned it in the last year- Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia); a rapist will be absolved of judicial guilt if they marry their victim (which happens a lot due to the stigma attached): Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, the Philippines and Tajikistan.
In 10 countries, rape charges will be dropped if the victim forgives the rapist: Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, the Philippines, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey.
In 10 countries, marital rape is expressly LEGAL (if it’s not outright illegal, it tends to be a grey area): Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
One of the largest areas of concern is the safety of women within conflict zones and unstable regions, where the small or large amount of protection that they usually have are taken away but the instability that comes. In many war-torn countries or those who have experienced recent or serious conflict, many women become the single heads of households when husbands, fathers etc are kidnapped or killed- as many often are. Without that little protection, women become vulnerable to rape and sexual assault, an endemic problem in places like the DRC. These sexual assaults and rapes are particularly brutal- organs are damaged by painful, sharp penetration from non-penile forces, leaving agony and pain that causes physical damage which in turn leaves them unable to seek work. For the perpetrators, rape is an easier and cheaper form of damage than any bullet or bomb or knife. Many perpetrators see it as a way to scare the opposition, and the opposition fear not being able to protect their home, village and women- a raped woman from a certain area can bring great shame onto others in her kin unit. When a woman is raped, she is seen as a fallen woman- either a fornicator or adulterer depending on her married state, and is often cast out because of the huge emphasis on female virginity. Civilians, military and guerrilla groups attack victims with impunity as they know that they will get away with it and not be held to account. Interviews with militia- often boys younger than myself- see them saying that it is their ‘right’ to attack women and that raping a woman is often seen as showing masculinity. Babies are raped in front of their mother and then killed, mothers are raped in front of their children…it’s a vicious cycle.
On International Woman’s Day 2018, do two things. First, remember the conservative women. Second, look into what I’ve told you. Read the stories of girls and women who have been raped, abused, beaten and had acid thrown over them- read what they do to girls when they rebel against societal norms. When you read the stories on manspreading and mansplaining, click into an article about the treatment of women in Pakistan, India or Syria. Never forget what the world does to those with vaginas between their legs.
It’s not pretty.