I’m not a feminist. I’m barely feminine come to that: a pushing-40 tomboy. My initial reaction to comments about gender balance is a cringe. So what if there are four men and no women on a panel? What do women bring to a debate that a man can’t? If I’m really honest, a man will often persuade me to a cause long before a woman – they can exude an air of authority most women would feel embarrassed to display.
It’s only very recently, partly thanks to Women for Independence, I’ve realised it’s an issue that does matter. On this site – below the line – the question of gender balance has been dismissed as hysterical feminism. On Twitter, a debate last week had the lack of women in politics dismissed with “Well, they exclude themselves, don’t they?”
The irony for me, as a woman, is how those kind of comments mirror the independence debate itself. An “I’m not a feminist but…” article echoes the now common, “I’m not a nationalist but…” refrain. The cringe when women speak up about gender imbalance is similar to the Scottish cringe: a lack of confidence in who you are; in standing up for yourself or others in your position; in insisting you on your right to be heard over those exuding more authority.
The “Well they exclude themselves don’t they? If women want to be involved what’s stopping them?” line carries within it the same lack of insight into power structures and barriers as, “What are those Jocks whinging about now? They’re represented at Westminster, aren’t they?”
The issue, as far as I’m concerned – and other women may disagree, we don’t all think the same – isn’t one about straight gender balance. Simply replacing male politicians and panellists with women who’ve made it within the same system misses the point. The issue is with politics itself, and the style of UK political and media debate.
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