I've finally got around to reading the new Lib Dem policy paper Real Women today.
On the whole, I think it's pretty good stuff. It tackles issues that affect women, without making me as a man feel I'm engaged in a massive conspiracy against the entire female population. It proposes lots of sensible, practical ways in which to enable women to improve their own lives.
But there are flaws in the motion that Lib Dem federal conference will be discussing next month when we get together in Bournemouth. There are parts of it which assume that some of the problems it seeks to address can be solved by state regulation, rather than through cultural change, which I think is a wrong-headed approach.
In particular, I'm thinking of the proposals relating to how women are portrayed in the media. These are either utterly impractical and unenforceable (eg the proposals governing how pictures can be modified) or involve the sort of petty state regulation that Lib Dems should be opposing. The proposals on lessons on body-image involve the sort of centralised control of education that I thought we were against. And the idea to introduce 'name blanking' for job applications is just silly bureaucratic nonsense.
That's why I've drafted this amendment, which I'm seeking support for. It's only a draft at the moment, so this may not be quite the final version, but if you're a Lib Dem federal conference voting rep and wish to support it, email me at bernardsalmon[at]cix.co.uk (replace the [at] with an @). I'll need your name, Lib Dem membership number and your local party.
This is the amendment:
Delete sections 3 and 4 (lines 39-52) and replace with:
3. Proposals to challenge the often narrow portrayal of gender roles within the media, but recognising that this can best be done through a process of cultural change rather than by regulation by the state.
4. Proposals to empower young girls (and boys) to challenge conformity and to decrease their chances of developing eating disorders by encouraging schools and local authorities to develop age-appropriate lessons on body-image and media literacy as part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) in schools.
Delete section 6(d) (lines 65-66).
These are the relevant sections of the motion as they currently stand:
3. Proposals to challenge the narrow and overly sexualised aesthetic presented in the media and popular culture by:
a) Requiring OFCOM and the ASA to mainstream gender equality into their regulation of the media.
b) Requiring all advertisements to declare the extent to which digital retouching technology has been used to create overly perfected and unrealistic images of women (and men).
4. Proposals to allow young girls (and boys) the space to challenge conformity and to decrease their chances of developing eating disorders by:
a) Banning the use of digital retouching technology in advertisements aimed at under 16s, which creates overly perfected and unrealistic images of women (and men); we would work with industry professionals to ensure that legislation was appropriately worded to reflect these aims.
b) Providing age-appropriate lessons on body-image and media literacy as part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) in schools.
6. Plans to tackle discrimination at work and in pay by:
d) Introducing a 'name blanking' policy so that job applicants apply with National Insurance numbers.
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