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WEBCHAT GUIDELINES 1. One question per member plus one follow-up. 2. Keep your question brief. 3. Don't moan if your question doesn't get answered. 4. Do be civil/polite. More here.

Webchat with Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party and London Mayor candidate, Tuesday 19 April at noon

(337 Posts)
BojanaMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 18-Apr-16 09:23:58


We’re pleased to welcome Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, ahead of the London Mayoral elections, on Tuesday 19 April at 12 noon.

The Women’s Equality Party was set up in 2015 “to unite people of all genders, diverse ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs and experiences in the shared determination to see women enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men so that all can flourish.”

Sophie was elected leader of the Women's Equality Party in July 2015, and in January 2016 was voted to represent the party in the London Mayoral election. She says she is campaigning for “work that works, affordable housing, equal caregiving, equal enterprise, transport that works, affordable housing and an end to violence against women and girls.”

She worked as an international news agency journalist for nearly twenty years and is an ambassador for the National Autistic Society, campaigning for better support and understanding of autism, particularly in women and girls.

Please do join us on Tuesday at 12 noon if you can, or post a question for Sophie here in advance. And, as ever, please do remember our webchat guidelines and do be polite.

The London mayoral election will be held on 5 May and you’ll need to register to vote by 18 April, today. (Keep your eyes peeled for more mayoral candidate webchats in the next few weeks.)


0phelia Mon 18-Apr-16 18:07:02

I understand the WEP believe the Nordic Model on prostitution is best for women and Prostitutes. I agree with this.

Can you explain how you might lobby for this in the face of an incredibly male-led "Democracy". What are your plans to promote this?

HermioneWeasley Mon 18-Apr-16 18:22:44

Like many other posters, you lost my support when you stated the position that "woman" is a feeling, not a biological fact.

I would really like to hear the answers to the questions about:
- how do you define "woman"
- do you support the proposal for self identification to be all someone needs for a GRC? If not, what can we expect the WEP to do to campaign against it?
- given the WEP's stance that Tara Hudson and their fully functioning penis should be in a women's prison, are there any spaces that you think should be for women (you know, the old fashioned kind) only, and why did you not equally campaign for transgendered Davina/ David Ayrton (paedophile rapist) to be put in a women's prison?

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Mon 18-Apr-16 18:46:26

Hi Sophie,

I too would like to see you answer the questions on trans issues, and the definition of "woman" raised on this thread.

Vicky1990 Mon 18-Apr-16 20:21:21

How can it be about equality if its only a woman's party, should be equality for all party.

OTheHugeManatee Mon 18-Apr-16 20:48:56

I would also like to see the WEP's definition of woman.

0phelia Mon 18-Apr-16 20:50:19

Vicky The "Equality for all" party already exist and actually have a name, The Communist Party.

Women's inequality needs to be challenged within all levels of presumed equality.

AskBasil Mon 18-Apr-16 21:48:25

I would like a simple, straight answer to the question:

What is the definition of a woman?

kua Mon 18-Apr-16 22:01:13

Hi Sophie, I lost all interest in the WEP after the last conversation with you here on MN. How would you propose winning me back around?

Also, please could you define woman.

TensionWheelsCoolHeels Tue 19-Apr-16 00:19:04

My question has already been asked (a few times) already so I'm just tagging on here to see what response we get smile

soapboxqueen Tue 19-Apr-16 01:05:04

I'm currently a member of WEP but I'm seriously considering cancelling my membership because I'm really disappointed, especially considering the high hopes I had, naively as it turns out.

So my question is, how can you fight for equality for women if you don't know who or what women are?

The people who discriminate against us know exactly who they are targeting, whether directly, indirectly or subconsciously. Why don't you?

slugseatlettuce Tue 19-Apr-16 09:24:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Muttaburrasaurus Tue 19-Apr-16 10:06:43

I think I am discriminated against because others identify me as a person with female biology and assume things about me eg that I have a 'ladybrain' or might leave work to get pregnant. If I were from a different culture they might have subjected me to FGM as a child or prevented me from completing education to get married. I do not believe that transwomen were subject to these discriminations because they were born with male biology and identified by others as part of the male sex. I am sure they face discrimination but it is not the same as female oppression and I would like to support a party that will not reduce the fragile gains in womens rights such as sex segregation for prisons, hospitals or sport . My question to you is am I just 'purporting to be a feminist' as Maria Miller thinks?

LyndaNotLinda Tue 19-Apr-16 10:31:50

I was a founding member of WEP but have cancelled my membership following your support for placing Tara Hudson and her '7 inch surprise' in a women's prison.

I too would like to know your definition of woman.

OfCrayonBorn Tue 19-Apr-16 11:02:15

Hi Sophie - do you think things like toilets, changing rooms, competitive sport, hospital wards, prisons, certain places on shortlists, etc etc, should be segregated by sex, or by gender? Why?

If gender, could you give us a definition of gender/gender identity please.

I would love to ask something else, but this is so fundamental to women's rights and equality. If you are calling yourself the Women's Equality Party, these questions need answering, or you're just stringing us along.

WhereYouLeftIt Tue 19-Apr-16 11:05:47

I await this webchat with interest, as I also have been put off this party because of the matters already raised here (maternity wards, genuflecting to male privilege over the trans issue).

I find the inability to examine an issue from all angles and foresee the inevitable consequences very concerning. It smacks of knee-jerk superficial responses to complex issues. I'd rather my politicians put a bit more thought into their policies.

For a supposedly woman's party, you've fucked off a shed-load of women.

megadude Tue 19-Apr-16 11:29:05

If you do become Mayor of London, what can a person do if they find themselves being treated unfairly in the workplace because of their gender, that they couldn't do before you were Mayor? I'm thinking of things they can practically do to get support.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 19-Apr-16 11:41:46

Hi Sophie, what is your favourite biscuit?

SophieWalker Tue 19-Apr-16 12:00:43

Hello everyone. I've just arrived and about to start answering your questions. Thanks very much for your participation! Let's get started.

RiverTam Tue 19-Apr-16 12:00:45

Ditto everyone else. Please define 'woman'. If you think it means anything other than adult female then your party and policies are meaningless.

thecraftyfox Tue 19-Apr-16 12:03:38

How would the WEP propose that inmates who declare whilst in men's prison that they are transwomen to be provided for, bearing in mind that many prison psychologists warn against an ever increasing tide of male offenders making this claim, many of whom are violent against women.
How would the WEP propose that female prisoners are kept safe?

SophieWalker Tue 19-Apr-16 12:10:22

I am about to start my web chat with a statement on all your questions regarding trans identity and experience.

I really look forward to hearing from you all about a wide range of issues, particularly in regard to the London mayoral campaign.

SpookyRachel Tue 19-Apr-16 12:10:38

I'm interested in the issue of sexism and sexual harassment in schools, and I see the Women & Equalities Select Committee is going to address that. What are your views on what could and should be done?

slug Tue 19-Apr-16 12:13:57

Hi Sophie. How's Grace doing? Lexi says hello

<<outs self>>

SophieWalker Tue 19-Apr-16 12:18:12

A lot of you have asked about our position on trans, so I'm going to elaborate on that here and then hope to move on to all the other important issues I'd like to discuss with you.

I am old fashioned enough to believe that one is not born a woman but rather becomes one. The process of becoming a woman is a messy one, filled with contradictions and influenced by many different factors, depending on where we are born, who our parents are, if we grow up in poverty or affluence, if we are able bodied or disabled, if we live in a war zone or somewhere relatively peaceful and so on. For some reason, every society also divides us into groups, depending on the colour of our skin, the shape of our genitals and often, on the accent that we speak with and the name that we bear.

All this limits our opportunities and sometimes serves as a channel, even justification, for discrimination.

And that is what I am standing against.

I am less interested in how one becomes a woman, and more in the structural challenges women face on a day-to-day basis. Because there is a common experience to it. It is a common experience of women in the UK to be harassed in public spaces - 85 percent of young women report this. It is a common experience of older women to be undervalued in the workplace, or even not hired at all. And it is a common experience of all women to have to constantly deal with the double bind - damned if we do and damned if we don't.

We are damned for focusing too much on our children and too little on our careers. And we are also damned for focusing too much on our careers and too little on our children. If we don't report sexual assault we are told we did it all wrong, but if we report it we are also told our reaction to it was wrong and that probably it was, at least partly, our fault. We are told to lean in, but not too much. I could go on.

Again, those experiences are also intersected with other factors in our lives. And we should learn from all those different experiences, including the experiences of trans women.

I know that there are both challenges and nuances in this regard, some of which are reflected in the questions I am receiving here. I understand the concerns of organisations that offer services to women who have been victimised by male violence. Such organisations should be able to tailor their support to the different needs of women and to create spaces that the women who are trying to survive feel are safe for them. I also understand the concerns in regards to prisons. I think we can build a prison system where women, including trans women, are safe and feel safe. I think those are issues we can solve, without the absolutism that seems to identify some parts of this debate.

Because in all honesty, I have been struck by how vicious some of the comments around those issues are (also reflected in some of the questions here.) I don't know why that has happened, and I am not interested in being put in a box, being categorized, as someone who either hates women or hates trans women. Because none of that is true.

I joined the Women's Equality Party because I want to challenge the structural inequalities women experience every single day. Our aims are laid out in our six objectives, which are: equal representation; equal pay and equal opportunity; equal parenting, caregiving and responsibilities at home; equal education, equal treatment in the media; and an end to all forms of violence against women.

While WE are focusing on women's rights (and unapologetically doing so) I also strongly believe in the right of everybody to be treated with dignity and respect, free from discrimination. And I think there is much more that unifies us than divides us. I would like to learn from all our experiences of what it means to live in a society where women and men are not equal. And I would like to understand what it means to those who feel they do not fit either of those categories. We have to be able to respect the different experiences of women and allow room for that. We need a broad movement to bring an end to the structural inequalities that are doing us so much disfavour. The Women's Equality Party is building up such a movement. Please join us.

OTheHugeManatee Tue 19-Apr-16 12:18:15

<waits on edge of seat for another carefully crafted fudge statement about how penis inclusivity is more important than women's rights>

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