Why women still need their own political party

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Women are often referred to in politics as if we are a minority vote. Politicians try to appeal to us as if we are a cat to be brought inside, coaxing us with tidbits of policy to make us vote one way or another. Childcare is often a buzzword that is flung in our direction. We are at least a half of the voting population, if not slightly higher, no way close to a minority. Having said that nine million of us did not vote in the last election, compared to seven million men. One of the Women’s Equality Party’s main aims is to inspire these women to vote and to feel like they actually have a party that stands for them, something which the main parties seem to be sorely lacking. In the general election more women than ever were elected were to the commons, with roughly a third of all MPs now being women. This is heading in the right direction but clearly in order to be representative there needs to be a further climb in numbers.

I am clearly not the only person who has realised this, and earlier this year The Women’s Equality Party was born on the 28th March 2015 (although it doesn’t officially launch until the Autumn). This is a party that has pledged to bring women’s issues to the forefront of the political rhetoric, not just as an afterthought as it so often seems to be with the major parties. The party’s ‘about’ page on their Facebook states that ‘when women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits’. This is indisputable. The current system not only harms women but men as well. Men are constantly told that portraying feminine traits is ‘weak’ or undesirable. I am getting off the issue here, but it’s clear that even with their opening statement the party are on the right lines. The primary aims of the party are also laid out clearly, stating ‘We will push for equal representation in politics and business to ensure women’s voices are heard at the same volume as men’s. We will urge an education system that creates opportunities for all girls and boys and an understanding of why this matters. We will press for equal pay and equal parenting rights enabling women and men to share opportunity and responsibility in the workplace and at home. We will seek an end to violence against women’. The only thing I would question with these aims is the placement of the final aim to end violence against women. I would put this right at the top. Until the endemic violence against women the world over is combated and recognised for just how prolific it is then we can never succeed with all the other aims that the party has set out.

I think one of the things that ironically highlighted the need for this party was the way the BBC reported it on it’s news page. It filed the news under it’s ‘Arts & Entertainment’ tab because Sandi Toksvig, a well known comedian, has joined the cause. Surely it should be under the politics tab? Another co-founder is a former Time magazine editor Catherine Mayer, but there’s been little said about her. Toksvig, however, has hit the nail on the head when she says that the issues the party will be highlighting need to be brought into a wider context because ‘most of the mainstream parties seem to treat women’s issues as if we were a minority group rather than, in fact, what we are, which is the majority of the country,’ and ‘you get separate women’s manifestos, or you get childcare talked about as if it was only a woman’s issue.’ I think the thing the party are trying to highlight is that this isn’t just about making women’s lives better, it’s about showing that all these different aspects of life that are supposedly “female” or “for women” actually effect everybody, and putting them at the top of the agenda will benefit all.

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