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5:56pm Tuesday 17th July 2012 in Letters
Sir – Sir, I attended a meeting of West Oxfordshire District Council for the first time on June 20 as a member of the public.
I had gone to hear a motion by Labour councillors about recognising and supporting Witney Pride and about promoting equality for all. Before the meeting began, the chairman announced that, as it was a hot day, gentlemen were permitted to remove their jackets. I then heard a Conservative councillor call out into the chamber “and the women can remove as much as they like”.
This remark was extremely demeaning for all the women present. No-one reprimanded this councillor and most of the male councillors laughed loudly.
As a retired teacher, I know that in a classroom situation such comments would be considered a form of abuse and not tolerated. A lot of people are still of the opinion that ‘men will be men’, but this was a public place with public representatives, meeting to discuss and support equality.
I felt as if I had entered some old boys’ club where the members still retain antiquated pre-Second World War opinions about who is equal and who is not.
I was also amazed to see a woman councillor chew gum quite openly throughout the whole proceedings and even speak out to the assembly several times with the gum still in her mouth. I later discovered that she was the vice chairwoman.
Is it any wonder, with this sort of arrogant behaviour by many councillors, that people are turned off politics and don’t bother to vote in elections? I shall not be returning to council meetings in these chambers while such attitudes persist. Joy Willberg, Freeland