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October 20, 2014 / C H Thompson

Feminism and power

To fully grasp the role of women in UK politics it is best to grasp a broader understanding of feminist social theory; which you can do that here for a brief overview or in greater depth from the following page. One thing which examining women and politics highlights is the extent to which ‘post-feminists’ might be premature in assuming feminism has succeed in its goal as evident in this clip.

With the exception of Mrs Thatcher women have had a relatively low profile in UK politics. For many feminists this lack of political power has nothing to do with power elites or ruling class, rather it commences at the personal level – the clear differences in everyday life between the genders. Men control women’s lives at all levels; in the home; at work and society in general so why should politics be any different.

Today, barely a quarter of all MPs are women. It may have taken Labour a few centuries to get to grips with 18-Century ideas, but the other mainstream parties have made even slower progress. In 2010, only 30 per cent of Labour’s candidates were women, but over three quarters of Tory candidates were not. As for the number of female MPs that were actually voted in during the General Election, Labour scraped 31 per cent, while the Tories managed just 16 per cent. Most shockingly of all, only 12 per cent of Lib Dem MPs were women – a point discussed in this clip.

In the UK just 369 women MPs elected in almost a century of so-called equal representation which is why some commentators have called for positive discrimination in the form of all women shortlists. Something Labour and Conservative Parties have either applied or considered something the the Liberal Democrat Party hasn’t which is discussed in this clip.

Reasons why this discrimination continues are varied but as the Independent points out it can be due to :

  1. The Electoral Reform Society notes that because First Past The Post limits a constituency’s choice of candidates, representation of minorities and women suffers from ‘most broadly acceptable candidate syndrome’.
  2. In parliament itself, women still face discrimination – there is no maternity leave, for example.
  3. Allegations of sexual harassment are not unheard of, and even the shocking Lord Rennard case rages on.
  4. Members of political parties have pointed out that local groups can be directly discriminatory towards women

This letter to the Times in May 2015 provides an excellent context for the challenges facing women in the political world.Concerns over women in politics

The next page provides first hand account as to why there’s so few female MPs.

Others have come up with their own solutions to address the reasons why the UK has plummeted to 65th in the world for women’s political representation. Here are five ways that could be improved

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