The New Wave of Politics
It has become a powerful word this year, especially in politics. Starting in 2016 with Hilary Clinton running for President of the United States of America, to Theresa May’s election as Prime Minister of Great Britain, German Chancellor Angel Merkel re-election and Nicola Sturgeon’s continued control of Holyrood in Scotland. Women seem to be taking a more substantial forefront in world politics.
The events happening in the United States are particularly remarkable. After Clinton lost to Donald Trump, women took a more proactive response to their disapproval of the newly elected president. In 2017, women across the country marched in a nation-wide Women’s March to protest against the misogynist acts and comments made by President Trump. Now in 2018, women are running for elected office. 374 female candidates are seeking seats in the House of Representatives, which is 76 more seats than the previous record according to the Telegraph.
A pro-choice Democratic recruitment organisation called Emily’s List was contacted by more than 26,000 women interested in launching their own campaign, reported the Times. Women from all backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities are entering the political arena this November when Americans will enter the polls once again for the midterm elections.
I spoke with Fiona McKay, PhD student in Journalism at the University of Strathclyde, about the current events happening in the United States. “I think there are a lot of peers saying that we are kind of in a moment for women and gender equality being high on the agenda, but I don’t think it should be a moment, I think it should be across the board. Trump is partially to do with [the rise of women in politics]. It is a tricky situation to gauge because it could be a chicken and egg situation”
In the U.K., a record number of women won seats in Parliament in 2017. More than 200 women were elected to the House of Commons. It was not until 2015 that the total number of women ever elected surpassed the number of male MPs in a single parliament (454) according to the Guardian.
“I think there are a lot of peers saying that we are kind of in a moment for women and gender equality being high on the agenda, but I don’t think it should be a moment, I think it should be across the board.”-Fiona McKay
In Scotland, there are a few women who currently have an influential impact on politics. Nicola Sturgeon is the party leader for the SNP and the First Minister of Scotland. Ruth Davidson is the head of the Scottish Conservatives party, Scottish Labour have had female leaders in Johann Lamont and Kezia Dugdale in recent years, and Mhairi Black is a second SNP MP who is making a name for herself in Scotland and the U.K.
McKay said: “In terms of percentages, Scotland has been better than Westminster. They have had party leaders [who are women] and more LGBTQ party representatives too” However, she suggested that just because we have figureheads like May or Sturgeon does not mean we have reached equality. People get caught up with symbols, and as a society, we must not get distracted by one figurehead.
Women still face an uphill battle when comes to equality and facing online abuse. This past March, Black gave a speech in parliament about the abuse she receives from online “trolls”. She gave a detailed description of the type of abuse people send to her and even dared to use the violent language her abusers crudely use against her during her speech. She is not the only woman that has faced abuse in the Scottish parliament. Dugdale, Sturgeon, and Davidson all have received online hate. Dugdale described how she received three death threats in six years, mentioned in the Herald Scotland. All three politicians are backing Amnesty’s Toxic Twitter, which is a campaign that challenges the social media network to take the steps necessary in addressing online abuse.
One organisation in Scotland that is looking to contribute to the increase of women in Parliament is the Women 50:50 Campaign. The organisation works on the principle that, “legislation should exist that ensures every party puts forward at least 50% women candidates”: according to Women 50:50 Campaign chair, Talat Yaqoob. The campaign has four out of five party leaders pledging their support, the official backing of Scotland on Sunday Newspaper, and Legislation for 50/50 boards being pursued in 2016/17 Programme for Government.
Yaqoob said: “It is important to have women in politics because politics should reflect the society it seeks to represent. Policy measures impact women and women should be part of that decision-making. An over-representation of men reflects an inequality within democracy and means there is a lack of lived experience of women’s lives in policymaking.”