Readers of this column will certainly be familiar with International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8th, and they may well be making their own plans to celebrate it. So is the European parliament.
The parliament is proud of its bold record in opposing gender discrimination: this of course is why we have a Women’s Committee (FEMM). It happens that on the big day, we shall all be at a plenary session in Strasbourg, and we shall be debating inter alia a couple of FEMM reports. I have just had sight of a draft plan of the parliament’s proposals to mark the event. After the FEMM reports, and before the vote, they plan a formal celebration.
The President of the parliament, Jerzy Buzek MEP, will invite all the women Vice-Presidents of parliament, and the women Quaestors, to join him on the podium. An additional line of seats will be set out at the front, for all the women Chairmen of Committees and Inter-parliamentary Delegations. The Commission will join in, fielding all its women Commissioners — so we shall have another chance to admire our very own Baroness Ashton.
There will be a special three-minute video presentation reflecting the history of International Women’s Day down the ages. It will feature maternity; women’s unemployment; women in science; equal pay; quotas on management boards; and violence against women. After that, we shall be treated to speeches from the triple Presidency — of the parliament, the Commission and the Council (any comparison to the Trinity would be entirely inappropriate), followed by the routine speeches from each political group — who, it is suggested, may like to field women for the purpose.
The plan doesn’t mention it, but I have no doubt that they will play the “European Anthem”, which will afford me a welcome opportunity to sit down for a while. At the end, all the 257 women MEPs will be invited to join a women-only photo-call.
And in a delightful touch, a bouquet of flowers will be placed on the seats of all 257 women.
Only a cynic, surely, would regard these plans as demeaning and patronising to women. Given that gender equality is a cross-cutting issue which is being mainstreamed into all aspects of the EU’s activities, I just can’t wait to see what they’re planning to do for International Men’s Day.