After the excitement of the TV debate a couple of weeks ago, I’m now asking an important question: “Where are the women’s voices?”
It was so exciting to see three women leaders participating in the TV debate, and Nicola Sturgeon was the clear winner of the debate. Comments after the event celebrated that women were being heard politically.
Fast forward a week, and what sight do we have? A row of ‘suits’ addressing the Scottish electorate in Edinburgh.
What a difference a week makes in politics. As a female electorate, I felt empowered and represented when three of the seven political leaders were women. My heart sank when I saw the Labour party in Scotland, and it was JUST MEN speaking. Perhaps my memory is playing tricks, but I thought the deputy leader of Labour was A WOMAN; Harriet Harman. So why wasn’t she appearing in these high profile events?
Of course the Scottish Labour Leader, Jim Murphy was speaking – and it was totally appropriate. However, I saw excerpts of one of the Scottish TV debates, where his communication style was shouting, finger pointing, speaking over other people and not listening. A style that makes many people switch off or at least very uncomfortable: hardly a vote winning performance. Having been rattled by Nicola Sturgeon’s success and visibility, he was joined by Ed Miliband. Had I been planning this event/media opportunity, I would have ensured there was a high profile female politician speaking AND visible in the line up. But no, they chose Ed Balls. In fact images of the event showed a bank of suited men and no women.
Yesterday, on the Andrew Marr show, Marr asked Harriet Harman why she wasn’t speaking up in Scotland. After momentarily looking extremely irritated (possibly by the statement rather than the question), she said that she was focusing on the female voters. Apparently 9 million women DIDN’T vote at the last election, and Labour are hoping to persuade women to vote by engaging via a pink bus. Not representation in major debates. I have no doubt that the ladies in the Labour bus are engaging many women to vote. But where is the bus going? Is it engaging with working women who are presumably at work when the bus parks in a town centre during the day? Will they influence female voters more by having female MPs visible in high profile events that are broadcast or covered by the media?
There have been the usual expert discussions on how the female vote will influence the outcome of the general election. So is this how Labour intend to engage with us? On the “Other side” the gorgeous Samantha Cameron, who is a successful business woman, mother to four children, and very high profile female role model, has been used for photo opportunities. These are the ‘soft’ images, such as meeting children and babies, rather than even meeting high flying business women. The Tories tend to engage with “NetMums” – a wonderful organisation, but one that doesn’t represent the majority of women. What does this say?
Personally I am feeling that the main parties aren’t speaking to me, a woman, because they are trying to type cast me into a specific role. And the fact that there are few visible female politicians being represented on the media is doing nothing to change my opinion. Until this changes, and of course there is still time, I’m going to keep asking “Where are the women’s voices?”