By Charlotte Cooper
Saturday, August 20, 2011
An online discussion group "Rotis not Riots" has started to look at the causes of last week's riots in England. That offers a bit of relief from the authoritarian backlash coming from the country's privileged-male power structure.
That might be a small percentage, but women in England do have a reason to be angry. The number of unemployed women over 16 years old is 1.04 million, less perhaps than male unemployment of 1.45 million, but still the highest number of jobless women since May 1988, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Lurking beneath these numbers is a gender gap that keeps women at the edges of social and political influence, said Anna Bird of the Fawcett Society in a recent press release.
"It's 2011 and women remain largely excluded from positions of power and influence in virtually every sphere of life," Bird wrote "The media, the judiciary, the education sector and more. There is a shocking absence of women in politics; men MPs outnumber women 4-to-1, the number of women in the cabinet is at a 10-year low."
With the numbers stacked against them, a few fierce political women stand out. One is Diane Abbot, the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons and the long-standing Labour member of parliament for Hackney.
Another is Theresa May, home secretary for the Conservative Party and the first voice from that party to appear on TV condemning the riots.
Abbott and May, however, will not feel the pressure these incidents have placed on single mothers who will be at the frontlines of the suffering that is bound to be caused by the government's threat to evict from council housing anyone caught looting.
Cameron put "children without fathers" in his list of causes in the "slow motion moral collapse" of Britain, a sideways swipe at single-mother households.
But that's hardly as bad as when Conservative councilor Bob Frost was caught slamming single mothers on his Facebook page, posting "You might ask how all the single mothers congregating with their push-chaired spawn are able to afford both their beer and their tattoos--I have a horrible idea I am paying for both." Frost is currently suspended from his position for calling rioters "jungle bunnies," a racist slur.
The Early Intervention Fund, which provides support for things such as family intervention projects and children's centers, was cut by 11 percent this year and the BBC reported that more family intervention charities were closing down due to lack of government support.
The lefty magazine the New Statesman is dedicating this week's addition to the subject of single mothers, inviting "10 left-wing thinkers to break the family values taboo and asks if dads are the answer to the riots."
Here's one answer:
No. And if we had more women in parliament we might see these conversations take place in the House of Commons. We might even have reason to hope for an examination of how women are faring in some of the country's communities hardest hit by the recession and government cuts.
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Charlotte Cooper is the director of marketing for Women's eNews.