I’m going to come out and say it. Women who don’t vote irk me. Women who don’t vote and then have the brass ovaries to boast about this fact proudly as if they are taking some sort of an anarchist stand make me want to put my fist through a wall. Would they be so flippant about their right to work, or their right to have opinions outside of that of her husbands? A mere slither of time exists between us and the time when a man could legally rape his own wife. Just let that sink in for a minute. We Feminists have not come far enough that we can afford to relax in some paradise of gender equality sipping our gender neutral cocktails.
Putting my own personal opinions aside, I can reluctantly understand the apathy of some female voters. Mainstream politics has traditionally been a male dominated world. As a result the country has been shaped to fit male needs and ideas. However, interestingly the two main focus areas for all the main parties in the run up to the election are health and women. The women specific issues that parties are focusing on include areas such as increased free childcare, doubling paternity leave and increasing funding for rape crisis and domestic abuse centres. Clearly the fight to secure that all important lady vote is on.
There are so many female specific issues that need tackling that no woman is Britain can afford to be apolitical. However, despite an increase in women taking up important parliamentary positions, female voter apathy is a pretty big issue. A study carried out by the The House of Commons Library has detected a notably steep decline in the number of female voters. A staggering 9.1 million women didn’t turn up to vote at the 2010 election. This has serious implications for keeping women’s issues as a political focal point. Abena Oppong –Asare recently wrote an article for The New Statesman where she stressed the dangers of women falling of the electoral register. She explains that: “women not turning up to vote will be particularly bad for UK democracy because governments develop policy and party manifestos to appeal and reach out to voters and largely ignore those who don’t”.
I have some experience of door knocking with the Labour Party and am always intrigued by the frosty reactions of many women on their own doorsteps. Often they will profess a complete lack of interest but their hostile body movements suggest otherwise. My clipboard and my cheery canvasser voice sets me apart, takes away my neutrality. To them I am the Labour Party and everything that represents, whether they like it or not. The divisive, political nature of the situation makes them visibly uncomfortable. They don’t see my face, they see the party symbol, the colour red. They may also see their own preconceived notions about what this means, from right wing media stereotypes to perceived policy mistakes of the past.
Other times, there will be a wearied, more telling admission of “your all the same, love”. In this case, the woman in question doesn’t see me as the party symbol, but more of as a representative of the political establishment as a whole. Some great hulking mass that is separate to them and their lives and the bills piling up on their kitchen work surface. Women are much less optimistic about the prospect of change than men. According to a recent report by mumsnet, a mere four out of ten women expect improvements to the economy over the coming year. This negativity is unsurprising due to fact that women have suffered far more than men under the coalition government. According to Deputy Leader of
the Labour Party Harriet Harmen: “the Tories have chosen to hit women harder, with women bearing 85% of the impact of tax and benefit changes”. No wonder satisfaction with party leaders it at an all time low amongst women.
With both these types of female door slammers, I can sense the same sentiment. The bitter, tired feeling that nothing is new under the sun and that whatever government gets in nothing much positive will change, not for ordinary working class wives and mothers. This attitude is disappointing to say the least and very, very wrong. Things do and can get better. Ordinary people can and must make changes at the grassroots level.
Women have been force fed through tubes for the right to vote, they have thrown themselves in front of carriages to be trampled to death. It seems bizarre then that today’s women, better educated and much freer to be opinionated, cannot quite bring themselves to drive ten minutes to their local primary school or community centre to put a squiggle in a box with a helpfully provided biro.
Ladies. To say that you are not interested in politics is to say that you are not interested in how your choices, your decisions and your life is shaped for the next five years. Do your research, find out what party best represents you and go tick that box. Because don’t for a minute think that vile UKIP voters won’t be swarming to the ballot box come polling day, mouths frothing at the thought of moulding their own pig ignorant society. Think about it. What is it that you want?