Who runs the world? Not girls

Amy Billington - Politics Editor

Kezia Dugdale with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (from the New Statesman)

Despite the June election signalling the revitalisation of the Labour Party in Scotland, Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale stood down from her role in August, saying it is time to “pass the baton” on to someone else.

While some have suspected that criticisms from her own party led to her resignation, there is only one thing that’s certain: the Labour Party is shockingly dominated by men. As it stands the following positions are all held by men; leader and deputy, shadow Chancellor, the Labour mayors for London, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, Welsh First Minister and the General Secretary of the party. Corbyn has however received praise from party members and spectators for having a 50:50 Shadow Cabinet, despite originally receiving criticism as none of the great offices of state (Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign or Home secretary) were held by women. This issue is nothing new though – the Labour Party has never had a female leader to this day.

Obviously, this problem is not unique to Labour by any means. The Liberal Democrats have too never had a woman in their top role. To this day, neither Labour or Conservatives have had a female Chancellor of the Exchequer, or in the shadow role either.  Yet somehow the Conservatives, with only a fifth of their MPs being women, have had two female leaders who have also become Conservative Prime Ministers. And yet even with our current Prime Minister being a woman, we remain shy of even a third of parliament being women – at 32%, and her own cabinet is only just over 25% women. Such disheartening statistics make it disappointing to see an LGBT woman like Kezia Dugdale, who herself co-founded ‘Women 50:50’ to try to achieve a gender balanced Scottish parliament, leave one of Labour’s most important offices – given both the overt and coded misogyny that women face not only in politics, but in general as well. Even the Prime Minister Theresa May indulged in the media’s shallow and sexist reporting during the run up to the election by claiming that in her home, there were ‘boy jobs and girl jobs’, ‘boy jobs’ of course including taking the bins out – to which Dugdale tweeted out “I mean seriously, as a gay woman, my house is obviously always a total tip because no one ever takes the bins out”! If the most powerful woman in the country still prescribes to such gender stereotypical rhetoric, what hope is there for the rest of us?

There needs to be a serious shift in the way female politicians are treated by the media – from unnecessary comments about shoes and clothing to a politician’s children or lack thereof. Theresa May not having children is not more important than the fact that there are 4 million children living in poverty under her leadership.

Female politicians, are by large, subjected to a scrutiny which men will never be: some of the press coverage on Hillary Clinton during the Presidential race would have you believe she was running to be America’s Next Top Model, rather than the leader of the free world. Everyone’s favourite feminist publication, the Daily Mail, even published a list of Clintons’ “20 worst fashion faux pas from the past 50 years”, just to let you know that she was both female AND aging – the important issues, obviously. But institutional sexism goes even further than the obsession with what female politicians are wearing –  there is a general sense that women simply aren’t built for politics in the same way that men are. Hillary Clinton, being a woman, just doesn’t have that cool headed, affirmative stance and leadership skills that her opponent Donald Trump clearly displayed throughout the race. Thank goodness they didn’t elect a woman, I dread to think of her emotional mood swings – she’d probably be up in the middle of the night threatening to nuke North Korea or something.

Female politicians, are by large, subjected to a scrutiny which men will never be: some of the press coverage on Hillary Clinton during the Presidential race would have you believe she was running to be America’s Next Top Model, rather than the leader of the free world.

There needs to be a serious shift in the way female politicians are treated by the media – from unnecessary comments about shoes and clothing to a politician’s children or lack thereof. Theresa May not having children is not more important than the fact that there are 4 million children living in poverty under her leadership.

It’s clear that we need more women in politics. If not for the fact alone, that there is nearly 900,000 more women in the U.K than there are men, and this split is clearly massively skewed the other way in representation in parliament. Even ignoring the obvious reasoning, you should look at the effect of legislation passed in the mainly male Houses of Parliament and how it can affect women’s lives – for example 86% of Tory cuts have fallen on women. Laws are debated nearly every week in parliament that have tremendous effects on women’s lives: such as bills on domestic abuse, reproductive rights, childcare and so on, and it is not fair that women do not get as much of a say in such vital issues as men do. We currently have more women than ever in the House of Commons, and yet 32% is still nowhere near good enough in terms of providing decent representation for women – especially working class women and women with dependant families. It is not beyond our control to make politics more accessible and less discriminatory to women – and it is our responsibility.

 

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