Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interview: Natalie Bennett via twitter

Having seen Phil's very interesting twitter interview, I thought I'd give it a try - and who should come into my twitter sights but chair of Green Party Women Natalie Bennett. I asked pretty hard questions I think considering she had only 140 characters to reply in.

Me: Hello, are you ready to discuss feminism via twitter?
Nat: Ready and waiting...

Excellent, let's start with a light one - what should the top priorities of modern feminism be?
Both local and globally, 1. Tackling women's economic disadvantage, restriction of access to food, to land, to jobs, to benefits.
2. Ensuring all women have control of their own bodies, and access to appropriate medical care.
3. Access to democratic power and influence.

What category of feminist does that make you?
A fairly unusual "radical" one: I still see the origins of patriarchy in the family, but think addressing economic disadvantage is critical.

Radical feminist? Are those the ones that hate men?
No. Just someone who thinks women promising to "obey" in marriage vows is a very, very bad idea - and all the baggage that goes with that.

So how do we get from marriage vows to economic disadvantage and access to food, land and jobs?
A good place to start is education. Ensure women are educated about their rights, and encouraged to use their abilities.
Then laws to make it possible. In the developing world that might be basic access to jobs, here for e.g. equal paternity/maternity leave.

You mentioned the word Patriarchy earlier. What does Patriarchy mean?
In short .. men having institutionalised power over women, power that's created within family structures and reinforced by society.

How do we change that?
Women individually refusing to accept that, getting together in campaigning organisations (with sympathetic men) & changing families & laws.

Serious question, although it might look trite - based on your earlier answer, should we ban marriage?
State should not prescribe what it is, allowing a wide range of contracts, some permanent, some fixed term, leaving "marriage" to religions.

Just thinking your main focus has been on legislating for a fairer society, if marriage is the root of the problem shouldn't we abolish it?
Discourage with alternatives, and educate about dangers of assuming it is "forever", when it often isn't. But you can't stop people vowing.

How does your feminism fit with other activism that's not explicitly feminist? It must inform your work but is there a tension sometimes?
Not really: my two other main areas of work are the environment & local issues. Women are disproportionately victims of climate change & ...
... many local issues, like difficulties of pedestrian access across roads, particularly affect women also.

It's my impression that a lot of grass roots or community activists are women - but the 'higher' you go in politics they start to thin out
Very much! Go to a local consultation & the people contributing time for free will be mostly women, the people paid to be there, mostly males.

You'd have to pay me to go to some of those meetings... what can we do to make sure women are represented more fairly at a higher level?
Identify the many who'd be good at it. Ask them, ask them again, badger them, put the forms in their hands, take signed forms in for them!

So your answer to gender inequality is to bully women? :)
You're beating lifetime pressures against stepping forward & like a reluctant woman rugby player I knew, they enjoy it once they've started.

We should start to wrap up... Do you think there's an obvious question that I really should have asked you but didn't?
Perhaps not obvious, but oft asked: How did you become a feminist? A. At age 5 I was told I couldn't have a bicycle because not 'ladylike'.

I should make some sort of joke about a fish with a Brompton... but can't think of one off hand. Sorry.

Last question: if you could have just one victory - what would it be?
Access to effective contraception for every woman and girl in the world, and access to safe, legal abortion for when it fails.

Thanks. I hope it wasn't too difficult fitting your answers into 140 characters!
Thank you! And sorry, still haven't worked out a Brompton line...

I quite enjoyed that format as it flowed back and forth quite quickly (particularly when you consider I was browsing the net while waiting for replies). I tell you what - these Twitter interviews might just catch on.

If you're interested you can find me on twitter at @Jim_Jepps and Natalie at @natalieben. I wonder who I'll do next?

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