Not even a week had passed since Anne Marie Morris shot in to the public conscientiousness with her racist turn of phrase and another equality gaffe pops up. Philip Hammond thinks that train driving is so easy that “even a woman” could do it. I have my suspicions that both of these Tories are so dull and ultimately forgettable that this is a cunning ruse to mark them as memorable. I can think of no other reason why anyone would say such stupid and offensive things without ulterior motive, except the glaringly obvious reason is that they are racist and sexist.
After their spell of disasters I wouldn’t let the Tories drive anything. If I was sat on my usual Euston to New Street train and the speaker system announced; “Today Ladies and Gentlemen your train will be driven by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer,” I would quickly gather my things and jump off the train, I’d rather take my chances with the Megabus.
So I joke, I like a cutting aside. Many people have jumped to the defence of that racist Tory whose name I have already forgotten and to the Chancellor saying “they don’t mean it, it’s a turn of phrase”. Or “God it’s just a joke”. This defence is weak because it is not a turn of phrase ever said by anyone in the last 40 years who wasn’t a racist and what Phillip Hammond said wasn’t even in the slightest bit funny so it can’t have been a joke. A joke makes people laugh. The Chancellor does not qualify.
What Philip Hammond says does not hurt me in and of itself. I have heard much worse. People think that feminists like me can’t take a joke, but in fact the jokes would be fine if the reality was different. If women lived in a world where the work that they did was considered equal to that of a man and was paid on equal terms, I could take the jokes. If the job of a nursery worker or a care worker garnered the same wages as bin man or the men who fix the roads, I’d be laughing it up down the pub at all the jokes. If young women apprentices got paid £5.85 per hour (on average) like young men do instead of the £4.82 that they actually earn, I’d be rolling round the floor laughing at all the gags. If Philip Hammond had even mentioned women or the kind of sectors where women work in his industrial strategy, or hadn’t asked the women of the world to shoulder the burden of 86% of his budget cuts, I’d gladly buy a humorous t-shirt and join in with all the boy bantz. Jokes on you Hammond if you realised that “even a woman” has a value you might not be missing out on the £41 billion that eradicating the full-time gender pay gap would contribute. Think how many shady deals you could do with political parties who want to tell me and my sisters what we can and can’t do with our wombs you could buy with that. Oh how we laughed. The jokes just keep rolling in.
It’s not funny that Philip Hammond thinks like this, it’s not funny because his thinking runs his department. His thinking says what money gets spent and what services get cut. It’s not funny when you are the joke and your people are the ones who suffer.
Because politics is so very predictable (and in fact not funny at all) I can already hear the PMQs exchange that with ensue. No doubt they will wheel out Theresa May to remind everyone that because she is a woman the Tories are better so na nah nah nah na. Sadly for the Tories having a woman PM seems to be the end goal rather than the thing that could be beginning of the change. The end goal is not a woman in the top job, the end goal is that all women get to progress. Theresa May is so powerful that she has a chance to demand that every penny spent on the industrial strategy by the Treasury must create jobs split equally amongst men and women. Theresa May could demand that sectors that help women get to work become part of the nation’s industrial strategy. Theresa May could demand that no company with a pay gap can ever apply for a government contract. Unless Theresa May starts to pull all the women up the ladder with her nothing will change and we will all have to say “even a woman” can let us down.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley
First published online on 16/07/2017 at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jess-phillips/article-50-vote_b_14533994...