international women's day 2011

Labour’s International Women’s Day: Women in men’s spaces

Posted on: 31 March 2011

The men’s toilets were temporarily women’s in the Emmanuel centre in Westminster – not intentionally symbolic, I’m sure. But I did smile when I saw the paper sign ‘Ladies’ stuck over the permanent ‘Men’ sign.

(For centuries, women were not allowed in the House of Commons, and so there were no women’s toilets. When women were allowed to be Members of Parliament, there were two sets of toilets: toilets for ‘Members’ and toilets for ‘Women’.)

The event was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day celebrations for the Labour party – an all-day conference which brought together Labour party members, supporters, trade unionists and politicians.

The most inspiring and insightful speeches came from Harriet Harman, who urged women ‘to be the engine of their own advance’, Frances O’Grady (Deputy General Secretary of the TUC) and Ivette Cooper.

Kate Green MP was also wonderfully coherent, intelligent and memorable, providing the clearest explanation I have yet heard as to why the coalition’s cuts are unfair to women. Nan Sloane, from the Centre for Women and Democracy, also gave an interesting account on how countries compare regarding women in politics.

Ed Miliband was the only man to speak to us. It must have been an odd experience for him, and he seemed a little unnerved.

The only other men in the room were all the photographers and the sound technician – an oversight on behalf of the organisers; they should have tried to find women for those roles.

One thing I did wonder: where did Ed and the photographers go to the toilet?


red women's symbold with continents superimposed repeatd 5 times

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