Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The legacy of Jo Cox MP: feminist role model?

I had no idea who Jo Cox was, until the news of her brutal murder last Thursday. Since that moment, fellow MPs, constituents, colleagues have come forward to tell us what a remarkable women she was, as a politician, a campaigner, a mother. A tiny, dynamic figure with a kind smile and dimples. It is rare to see such a force for good, such an inspirational figure, juggling issues on the national and international stage, the public and the domestic front.

As well as a terrible sadness at such a loss, I also found myself incredulous at the energy of Jo. How was she able to juggle becoming an effective spokesperson for humanitarianism in current politics while clearly being a devoted mother to her two young daughters? More over, how could she sustain the compassion needed to care for everyone as she did? Caring for her family, representing her constituents and campaigning so hard for families suffering in war zones and refugee camps in a political climate that is increasingly desensitised and suffering from compassion fatigue.

For people who want to make a difference, her life seems perfect. Living with her family on a houseboat, cycling to Parliament, working for change on the issues she had direct experience of as an aid worker and policy adviser, representing the area of Yorkshire where she grew up.  She supported other women, breastfeeding at Conference in solidarity with a fellow MP.

But she also faced dilemmas many women face. She had to overcome feeling intimidated at Cambridge and at Parliament, asserting her right to be there as an intelligent woman with something to say. She wondered if it was the right time to stand as an MP when her children were so young. She worked hard and tried to do her best by everyone.

Her husband, Brendan Cox, spoke in a BBC interview yesterday. He was clearly touched by the respect and outpouring of love for Jo from the British public. But he doesn't not want her martyred. "She wasn't perfect" he said. But she had a love, an energy and a desire to fix the problems of the world which we so need in these troubled times, beset by cynicism and hopelessness.

I wanted to write something about Jo because her life is inspiring. She shows what energy and compassion can achieve. A much needed female role model, a working mum who showed the value of experience, expertise and compassion.

I wish I had got to meet her. We need reminding sometimes that we can all do more to be the people we want to be. 

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