Friday, 17 February 2012

The Politics of Being Taken Seriously

Last week, feminists in Britain took a stand on two occasions: the Unilad saga and Top Totty-gate. The political reaction, or should we say ridicule, with regard to both events demonstrated how in this country we are still unable to take women, and problems of the female equality, seriously.

For those of you who missed it, was a website specialising in ‘banter’ for male university students and it fell afoul of the feminists after posting an article which condoned rape. Although the website has since been closed down the reaction of ‘lads’ to its demise highlighted how the country still finds it impossible to see sexist jokes for what they are: misogynistic comments perpetuating sexism.

In a Westminster bar a beer named Top Totty was removed after Labour MP Kate Green (also the Shadow Equalities minister) complained about it. And she was right to do so. The beer was advertised with a scantily clad woman, and keeping it would have continued the myth that it is ok to objectify women when it clearly isn’t. However the highly educated politicians who help represent the country did not agree and Kate Green was branded ‘a humourless sort’ by Mike Nattrass, UKIP MEP for Stafford.

In fact, Westminster is probably the best example for the problem. Britain is largely still run by men and female politicians often talk of ‘bullying’ or are accused of diluting the feminist message. In 2009, foreign office minister Caroline Flint resigned after feeling she was being treated as ‘female window dressing’ and complained of ‘this negative bullying’. After an interview with male magazine GQ, Conservative MP Louise Mensch was asked how she expected her gender equality principles to be taken seriously. Because by being photographed for a magazine she should of course be excluded from the feminist sisterhood. This is a prime example of the culture we live in, where female MPs are expected to not partake in photoshoots with male magazines but it is fine for male MPs. Who can forget David Cameron gracing the front cover of GQ?

We already have a problem with female representation in the political system. 22% of MPs are women when it clearly should be 50% and we have only had one female prime minister since women got the vote, nearly 100 years ago. It is time to follow the lead of Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark where women make up around 40% of MPs because it is no longer acceptable for women not to be taken seriously, because of their gender. Until Parliament realise this, we can hardly expect Britain to realise this. So until Parliament realise this, it is going to continue to be a problem.

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