Oona King

Sunday, 03 March 2013 20:27

The Guardian: Sexism in Westminster

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Oona King, Tessa Jowell, Angela Eagle and others on sexism in Westminster Guardian 2.3.1913

The Rennard allegations have put Westminster's sexual politics in the spotlight. So how bad is it? Women who know tell of boozy conferences, wandering hands and the obstacles to complaining Full article here

When we arrived in 1997, it was institutionally sexist. When women would stand up in the chamber, men on the other side would be shouting "Melons! Melons!" while making hand gestures – that's how juvenile it was. There was an extraordinary level of sexism in terms of power, which hasn't changed that much. It wasn't just from politicians – when the media contacted you, they were as likely to ask about your lipstick as your policies. 

I think there was a step change in 1997, with the influx of Labour women – but 18% of a workplace can't revolutionise that workplace or overturn a culture that has been there for 500 years. I never feared wandering hands in Westminster, but I did encounter them in the European parliament – from British politicians – and before that when I was a political assistant, from political advisers from Westminster. But a lot of women in many fields have been groped. We need to make it unacceptable in all spheres of life. Politics is no worse than other fields.

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