#patriarchiesrealign: sustained gender inequality in the British Government

Che Ramsden in openDemocracy unpicks the sustained gender inequality in the British Government. See also: Strengthening democracy: tackling the over-representation of men.

This piece: opendemocracy (emphasis added):

Last year, having failed to label himself a ‘feminist’ in the run-up to the General Election, David Cameron finally qualified, when challenged by Rupa Huq MP, he said that “if feminism means we should treat people equally, then yes absolutely.” As evidence, he pointed to his Cabinet, which is one third women – a somewhat bizarre way of “[treating] people equally” by representation.

Suffragette hunger strike medal. Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

I have had too many conversations, not only with men, which show up the fear of the word ‘feminism’ that Cameron has displayed. The crux is a fear of women having ‘too much’ power, or things going ‘too far the other way’. On International Women’s Day this year, a kindly friend was perturbed by my suggestion that the world would be a much nicer place were women in charge, and earnestly responded, “but surely it’s about equality, not women taking over?”

There are currently more male MPs in office (459 – of whom 436 are white) than the number of women MPs in UK history (450). A 100:0 ratio of men to women in the House of Commons was accepted for most of the institution’s history; today, the ratio is 71:29. Yet aiming for the opposite – a 29:71 or 0:100 men to women ratio – seems inconceivable. Only under patriarchy will we pay lip service to ‘equality’ while seeking to cap women’s representation at 50%.

The House of Commons exists to represent ordinary people, yet the history of what constitutes ‘people’ enshrined it as one of the UK’s most ‘pale, male and stale’ institutions. Since 1969, MPs have been elected by over-18s of all genders and ethnicities; the Representation of the People Act 2000 aimed to be inclusive by removing many restrictions on proxy and postal voting, allowing psychiatric hospitals to be used as a registration address, and ensuring additional assistance for disabled voters, particularly visually impaired voters. It is worth noting that today, all under-18s, certain migrants, and (since 1983) convicted prisoners are excluded, and the voting system means that many of those in ‘safe seats’ do not have their voice heard at the ballot box.

Despite women having voting parity with men since 1928 when over-21s were enfranchised, women’s experiences in the House of Commons show that this is not a space designed for or inclusive of women. The report for the Administration Committee on women’s experiences in Parliament, published in August 2015, highlights that women MPs and MPs from minority backgrounds are made to feel unwelcome by a ‘public-school boy ethos’. This is a culture which accepts bullying, mockery and other unprofessional behaviour as ‘banter’.

© and read the rest: opendemocracy (posted using inoreader/ ifttt).