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Mike's New Word for the Week

I have learned a new word this week. I am not sure if it is in the Oxford English Dictionary…yet. But I reckon it will be there before long. You’ll never guess who I learned it from. Theresa May, our Prime Minister.

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition, was pressing a question about British arms sales, women’s rights, and human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia – the Crown Prince was on a state visit here. Corbyn seemed to want to remind the PM of the fact that Thursday 8 March, was International Women’s Day. May accused him of ‘mansplaining’. Somehow the word had just passed me by. It refers to a man ‘explaining (usually to a woman) in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing’. Now Theresa May is no rabid feminist but she is alive to the issue, as you might expect – only the second female British Prime Minister.

It is nearly 50 years - on 6 March 1971 – since women staged the first march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square in pursuit of equal education, job opportunities, wages – free contraception and state-funded nurseries too. You might wonder whether we need an International Women’s Day any longer. You might think they need it elsewhere but not in the ‘enlightened’ West.

What progress have we made?

The #MeToo movement has forced the issue of sexual abuse of women into the open. The BBC has been publicly embarrassed on unequal pay rates for its employees. In the 2017 UK general election, voters returned 208 women to Parliament - that is 32%. Women’s sport gets much more media attention than ever. The Church of England has just elected the first woman Bishop of London – number 3 in the episcopal pecking order. The General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress is a woman. But the ‘glass ceiling’ still exists in many places.

All of this concerns people in the public eye. What of ourselves, the rank and file?

However ordinary we may be, we still hold power over some other people. We can still discriminate subtly, still allow the sexist joke to pass unprotested, still act in a ‘condescending and patronizing’ way.

Yes, there is still a need for International Women’s Day, still more listening to be done, still more ‘evening out’ of opportunity and privilege. This IWD has made me think about my own lapses into ‘mansplaining’. Terrible thought!…. Maybe I have just been doing it! Sorry!

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