An unexpected endorsement from U2
I knew in calling my latest book Attack of the 50 Ft Women that I was setting myself a challenge, just as Sandi Toksvig and I understood that the Women's Equality Party would inevitably rub up against bias, conscious and unconscious. We live in a culture that assumes men and their deeds to be of interest to everyone while women's stories and perspectives are thought relevant only to women. Anything with the word "women" in the title tends to be relegated to programming aimed specifically at women. You'll find more coverage of the biggest global inequality of all, between men and women, in the lifestyle pages than in the economics and politics sections.
The solution cannot be to drop the word "women", as some advise, but to change the way media and men respond to it. The issues addressed in Attack of the 50 Ft Women are not niche. The solutions proposed by the Women's Equality Party aren't lacking in ambition. They are huge and transformative.
"Their prospectus did make me wonder how much more women could be valued in our society if all parties had the imagination to think this differently and comprehensively," wrote the author and ITV economics editor Noreena Hertz about our 2017 General Election manifesto. We knew that prospectus had little chance of getting the coverage it deserved, on ITV or any other channel. Broadcasting guidelines supposed to ensure impartiality during elections instead reinforce the existing bias and effectively exclude the Women's Equality Party from most programming and marginalise the Green Party too while ensuring that UKIP's death throes are splattered all over your screens. The regulator OfCom puts more weight on the performance of parties at the last two elections than on their current standing, compounding the effects of an electoral system (first-past-the-post) that has been proven globally to exclude women and minorities.
There is, however, one giant screen that is giving us, or more accurately, me, unexpected exposure. On May 20, my cousins Mike and Sasha began feverishly messaging me from Pasadena. They were at the Rose Bowl for U2's Joshua Tree 2017 world tour and had just seen me looming over them, not a 50 Ft woman but a 100 Ft one, they said. I didn't believe them. They could provide no photographic evidence; they'd been screaming and pointing and then the image disappeared. The next day I googled to see if I could make sense of their reports and discovered images of a montage of female activists and movements, past and present, that accompanies the song Ultra Violet, Then Sasha sent me this video, taken by her friend.
The line-up serenaded by Bono includes Sojourner Truth, bell hooks, Ieshia Evans, Angela Davies, Rosa Parks, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Connie Mudenda, Wangari Maathai, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Emily Wilding Davison, Edith Margaret Garrud, Suffragettes, Match Girls Strike, Sari Squad, Pussy Riot, Women of Iceland, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Rosetta Tharpe, Frederique Petrides, Patti Smith, Poly Styrene, Grace Jones, Begum Rokeya, Nawal El Saadawi, Saffiyah Khan, Malala Yousafzai, Khalida Popal, Moms Mabley, Ruth Ellis, Marsha P Johnson, Ellen DeGeneres, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Sandra Day O'Connor and Lena Dunham.
I appear about three minutes in, alongside Aphra Behn, Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, ridiculously good company.
I'm flattered, if also amused. But how much better would it be to see 100 Ft screens displaying Women's Equality Party candidates. Those candidates and our manifesto really are something to sing about.