FEMINISTS gathered on Saturday last week for the launch of the new Basingstoke branch of the Women’s Equality (WE) Party.

Those attending the ticketed event at Proteus Creation Space, in Council Road, enjoyed canapes, a quiz hosted by Pieter Lawman, musical entertainment and a fundraising raffle.

Stacy Hart, leader of the Basingstoke branch, gave a speech thanking everyone for attending, saying: “I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist but never thought that required action, because, well, hadn’t we more or less got equality?”

The 39-year-old mother-of-two said it has taken her years to understand the nature of patriarchy, adding: “How nebulous it is. How slippery. But most of all how it is so built into every single structure of our existence that we simply don’t see it. How easy it is for otherwise reasonable people to dismiss.”

She urged those attending to look at the WE Party’s policies with “fresh eyes” and “ask yourself if the sort of inequity you’re looking at is something we can afford to continue to let slide simply because it’s always been this way”.

She added: “Think about the sort of world we could live in if any or all of these policies were enacted. A world where our children aren’t bombarded with coded messaging on who they’re allowed to be.

“Where girls and women are safe and boys and men aren’t driven to end their lives with stifling toxic ideas about masculinity. Where all people thrive and all families can choose what’s best for them instead of contorting themselves into corporate-friendly shapes. Where pay is truly a result of work and talent, not a result of your family choices. Where quality and healthcare is not dependent on your sex.

“A world in which the people running it look and sound like all of us.

“These changes seem like no-brainers. The problem is that the making of them threatens those that hold the power in our country; those who give lip-service to equality and meritocracy while they sandbag themselves inside the seats of power.”

Stacy pointed out that the WE Party was founded exactly four years ago to the day with the aim of achieving seven key objectives including equal media treatment, equal education, equal representation and equal parenting and caregiving.

Since launching in 2015, 45,000 members have joined and there are nearly 80 branches across the UK.

Stacy, who is an actor, is running the Basingstoke branch alongside Andy Johnson, data manager, and Priya Brown, communications lead.

She said the aim is to grow the branch slowly, focusing on local objectives, with plans to enter a candidate in the borough council elections to be held in May.

The branch held a podcast on International Women’s Day aimed at helping Basingstoke women overcome barriers to and in the workplace.

At the launch event, statistics were posted around the room about inequality, such as for every £1 earned by a man, a woman earns 81p, and women make up only 29 per cent of MPs and 24 per cent of peers.

Stacy told the Gazette her children inspired her set up the Basingstoke WE branch.

She said: “I have two sons and inequality between genders is as damaging to them as it is to girls. It became quite clear exactly how damaging gender stereotyping is. I could see how my life had been affected by what was put onto me as a young girl so I said enough, I wanted to do more.

“I have come to the realisation that saying politics isn’t for me is not a viewpoint that can be held if you want to see things change.”