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Gender equality

As populism rises, gender equality risks ‘going backwards’ - Sadiq Khan


In his first major speech of 2018, Sadiq Khan will warn that for the first time in his life gender equality could stall – or even go backwards – as populism gains strength.
Addressing the Fabian Society New Year conference this morning, Sadiq will point out that populism “plays on people’s worst fears and creates space for extreme views on immigration, diversity and equality.”

He will condemn the idea that campaigns for equality and diversity are political correctness gone mad, he will point to the example of the US which has seen a recent rise in anti-feminist movements. Across the Atlantic, the use of ‘snowflake’ or ‘social justice warrior’ have become pejorative terms that effectively shut down debate, and more and more people have tried to dismiss the gender pay gap as a myth.

As we celebrate the centenary of some women winning the right to vote next month, the mayor will warn that “we cannot allow this new narrative take hold in Britain. We all have a responsibility as progressives to continue the fight for gender equality – but men in particular must become better allies.”

Sadiq pledge that City Hall will set the best possible example – as well as celebrate the progress made and fight for further change – through its #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign for gender equality.

On the rise of populism as a threat to gender equality, Sadiq is expected to say:

“Not only is progress on gender equality plateauing, depressingly – we’re now faced with – for the first time in my lifetime – the threat of things going backwards.

“Populism is gaining strength – playing on people’s worst fears – and creating space for extreme views on immigration, diversity and equality. There’s a growing narrative that the great campaigns for equality – and the need to celebrate our diversity – are somehow ‘political correctness gone mad’.

“Anti-feminist movements are on the rise – as part of a concerted attempt to roll back progress on rights for minority groups. A new trend of pejoratively calling people ‘snowflakes’ or ‘social justice warriors’ – is being used as a weapon to shut down debate. And more and more people are trying to dismiss the gender pay gap as a myth.”

“We’ve seen the impact of this in the US and we cannot allow this narrative to take hold in Britain. It’s the responsibility of us in this room to redouble our efforts and to fight back. We all have a responsibility as progressives to continue the fight for gender equality.”

And, on the need for men to become better allies:

“Another cultural shift we need to see is for men to become better allies so that when women speak out about sexual harassment – men listen, believe and act.

“We should commend all those – from Hollywood actors to political activists – for their bravery in speaking out.   But we can’t forget that many women are suffering in silence.  They don’t have the same media pull, financial backing or security to speak out and to get justice.

“Yes – these things are happening in the corridors of Westminster and amongst the bright lights of Hollywood, but they’re also happening on the shop floor, the local pub and the office block next door. We all have a duty to create an environment where women feel empowered to speak out and to expose the injustice.”


Claire Sewell

Claire Sewell is head of media and communications at the Fabian Society


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