Feminism has been heavily stigmatised as a doctrine of ‘man-hating’ and aggression, when the reality is quite the opposite. The truth of the matter is that the men who benefit from the patriarchal narrative find it difficult to support gender equality, in fear that their own position will be forfeited at the expense of a female. This mindset upholds systematic sexism by creating a metaphorical ‘male only’ sign on careers in politics and business, essentially deterring women from said roles as it seems hopeless to pursue them. However, the masculine barricade could be deteriorating as studies suggest women make better MPs than men.
The most prevalent example for this was in Sweden; The Swedish Social Democratic party introduced a strict gender quota for their candidates in 1993, with the aim to have better gender representation in their party. The effects were consequentially labelled the ‘crisis of the mediocre man’, as the quota rid the party of average male politicians replacing them with better, more qualified female ones. This eradicated the male privilege in careers in politics and established a far system whereby both sexes would be represented and the best candidates from each would have a place on the party list.
This outcome was also strengthened by recent findings that in fact the average female MP is more qualified and therefore better than the average male. Now, this isn’t my bias ‘girl power’ rhetoric coming through here, in fact, studies have reason to suggest this hypothesis has some truth. The logic behind it is that due to oppression and harsher checks and balances undertaken on female candidates, it is on average harder for a female to make it in the industry compared to her similarly qualified male counterparts. Thus, the women who are able to gain a career in politics are generally an elite sub-section and more qualified on average. The Swedish quota makes politicians all round more qualified on average, due to the weeding out of under-performing MPs. The immense success of this quota for gender equality makes it clear that similar policies should be implemented across countries and political parties, but it’s not that simple.
To be perfectly blunt, men do not see any reason for them to give up their privilege. The Swedish gender quota was criticised by males, saying it was too forced and eradicated qualified men who earned their position and replaced them with females by default. It is these kinds of criticisms that prove how blind-sighted men are of systematic sexism and the immense advantage men have over women in all fields. Moreover, the winners never change the system. If branding politics and business as a patriarchal realm works in favour of men, then why change it.
I’m not going to sit here and try to convince men why they should let women be their equals, because God knows it is a hopeless feat, but there are distinct advantages to having more female representation in parliament, not just descriptively but also on a substantive level. As much as women are just as capable in all fields as men, we also have distinct interests that only we can have exceptional insight on. It may seem cliché, but greater policy representation on areas concerning the bearing and rearing of children actually increase women’s ability and likelihood to return to work after having children if they choose to. I would be one of many to argue that women create this type of policy best. The Suffrage movement, for example, lobbied the government (which then even more so than now was just a group of old white men) into increasing public spending in health and child care, which subsequently decreased the child mortality rate. This policy outcome not only supports the idea that women are best at advocating issues that affect exclusively women, but also that women are essential in politics to raise concern around these policy areas at all.
I know what you’re thinking, the men implemented that policy so… why do we need female MPs? Well firstly I would really like to avoid throwing myself in front of a horse for gender representation and would like to believe we are well past that now. Secondly, the only reason the policy was introduced was because of the immense political pressure from the Suffragettes, which could have been avoided in the first place if women’s interests were being voiced from within the political body. So, it is clear that, not just to have more women in politics, but for the benefit of all women in terms of political outcomes, women should be far more represented in politics.
Now, everything I’ve said can seem confusing when we consider the nature of female MPs who have been successful in politics. Heavy heartedly, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel and Theresa May spring to mind when naming the women in politics who have made it big. It isn’t rocket science to see what all these women have in common; their general right-wing stance and labelling as ‘honorary men’ seemingly nullify the idea that women MPs are best at representing the distinct interests of females. However, this is exactly the problem. It is near impossible for women to have a fruitful career in politics without conforming to the typical attributes of a male politician. We cannot be feminine or maternal and be successful MPs, nor can we be strong minded and opinionated about policy fields when it does not serve the interest of men. Similarly, women who do not fit into the male-constructed archetype of a women and choose to not have children are scolded by their fellow male and female MPs for not doing so. The gendering of policy concerning defence, security and public debt all contribute to both women’s deterrence and difficulty in pursuing a career in politics.
While this started off as an organised piece of journalism and has ended in more of a rant, the representation of women in politics clearly needs more attention. Not only does it seem fair and just that 50% of the population should make up 50% of the people’s representatives in parliament, but making this compulsory would increase gender equality in the policy effecting women on a larger scale. So do women make better MPS than men; wait until we have gender equality and we’ll find out.