I interviewed Caroline for the article International Women’s Day 2015: 10 ways to make equality happen. But she said so many interesting things that I didn’t want to deprive you of them (every word that comes out of her mouth makes sense, a skill I wish I had). So, here’s the first part of that interview, more to follow soon!
I really only have one question. How can we speed up equality?
That’s an awful question! We need more people involved, that’s the only way to speed it up. I think what people want from feminism is for it to be simple, for there to be answers, specific changes. But we’re talking about society here. That’s not the way society works. We’ve done the legal framework. There might be a few things we might want to change, but on paper it looks like women are equal. The reason we’re not equal , is that people’s hearts and minds haven’t changed. So what we need now is cultural change and societal change. And that’s inevitably much messier, much less clear cut, and there will be trial and error, and things we need to discuss. That’s why it needs to be more people on board, it’s about every building block of society now, it’s about how we bring up our children, what we teach in school, what the media does, what politicians say, what films project, so we need people who are in every sector of society to be caring about it and be doing something about it. We can’t just have the feminists who just sit there and aren’t necessarily part of the rest of the world.
Is economic equality essential to true equality?
I don’t think there’s any part of equality that you can leave out, everything is co-dependent. Money is power.
But what about those people who say: women don’t care about money as much, they care about other things?
Do women innately care about different things or are they brought up to care about different things? Secondly, why is it that pretty much uniformly, the things that women value are the things that financially we value least? Interestingly, in Russia, where the medical industry is very feminised, they’re paid much less than for example journalists, who are paid much more, and it’s reversed. These things are just arbitrary, and they are based on the cultural value that what’s feminised is less financially worthwhile.
Women cannot be seen to be selfish, they’re supposed to be caring. Men aren’t socialised that way. I think people are mixing idea of needing to be very rich with the idea of equality.
Why do you think more women than men lost their jobs during the recession?
It comes from not wanting to take a chance on an unknown quantity when things are tough. What people know is the old way of doing things, with masculine values and men running things in their very male way. It doesn’t make any sense, logically, because the reason we keep having these crashes is because we don’t change the way we’re doing things.
Is the economy part of the problem?
The model of the economy that we still have at the moment is based on this idea of women providing all this free care work. It wouldn’t work if women all around the world suddenly stopped doing it, the whole thing would collapse. But it has to get done and because women are socialised to do it we carry on doing it.
For example, if you look at the working week, that’s completely impossible for someone who is a single parent. It’s modelled around the idea that you’ll have a nuclear family with one person going to work and one person staying at home and looking after the kids and doing all of the cooking and cleaning. That already doesn’t work in the society that we actually have.
The economy as it’s set up now doesn’t work for women and we won’t be able to get equality out of it. It’s structured around this idea of the autonomous economic man and he has this hidden invisible caring economy that supports him and enables him to go off and do everything he wants to do. While we continue to expect women to do that women will never be able to be equal. The only way for women to become equal is for them also to also become this economic man, but then who is going to do all of the care work? Men certainly aren’t doing it. But who wants to step into that role? That is completely undervalued, and is frankly boring.
The solution is to have men picking up more of the slack, but so that it’s shared, not that men become what women have historically been. So you want things like shared parental leave.