In the words of Tammy Wynette, sometimes it's hard to be a woman. She might have been talking about giving all her love to just one man, but she could just as easily have been singing about the struggles of patronising political campaigns vying for their votes.
This week we learnt that Owen Smith will be the chosen one to rival Corbyn in the Labour party, and on Friday he announced that should he win, half of all Labour MPs will be female, and this representation will be reflected in his shadow cabinet. On the surface it sounds very good, but let's pick it apart a bit.
Now Smith might have genuine and commendable reasons for wanting more women in government. Men and women often approach problems and prioritise issues differently. These are not just confined to 'women's issues' (a toxic phrase that suggests topics such as child care or sexual violence are the concern of women alone, leaving women fed up and men isolated from the debate) but, for example, approaches to the welfare system. Women, who are more likely to low paid and in part-time employment, could bring a much-needed voice to debates, and as politics is intended to be representative, having more women with an inherently greater understanding of the different life experiences faced by all of us is something to aspire to.
Unfortunately my happiness at this exciting announcement is tempered by the voice in my head telling me that a token female MP will simply be wheeled out, most likely to discuss that most important topic to women everywhere - maternity leave! Often in politics trotting out one women to speak about a 'special interest' to an apparently 'special interest group' is about as far as it gets, and we are expected to fall for it. So for any MPs out there looking to appeal to the ladies, some tips.
Firstly, women are not so bound by some Ovarian Circle of Trust that means we feel obliged to vote for other women. By all means women should be involved but please do not think that we will admire them for virtue of being women. We'll look at their voting record to determine whether they represent us, not their gender. The mercifully-brief era of Sarah Palin on the world stage should have made that clear.
Secondly, please remember that women are not a 'special interest' who only listen out for the policies that affect us more directly than they do men. We too are capable of understanding and caring about the economy, foreign policy and climate change to name a few. Please do not follow in the footsteps of the infamous 'Better Together' advert with the woman who couldn't keep up with all those big political words her husband used when she was trying to make breakfast.
Finally, please remember that we have had the misfortune to witness the trailblazing feminist era of 'Cameron's Cuties' - even writing that phrase makes your skin crawl. Despite selecting enough women to create arguably the worst Mail headline of all time (although I haven't gone back through them all to check. Some things aren't worth your sanity) we haven't entered a new age of equality or success. A woman in charge of education has resulted in mass strikes in the same way as a man in charge of the health system, demonstrating, as if it were needed, that it is their politics that matter in these jobs, not their anatomy. We've also watched our new female PM axe the Department for Energy and Climate Change and appoint Boris Johnson the new foreign secretary. Female voters are still able to feel let down with female politicians when they make decisions that could cost the earth.
Essentially, when attempting to appeal to female voters maybe Smith and others would do well to reflect on the wise words of Jo March, that women vote not because we are women 'but because we are human beings'. Consider whether you think your policies and slogans would appeal to people and that will help you determine if it will appeal to women.
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