"I feel like I should care, but I don't," said a 23 year old artist in London, when asked if she planned on voting in the upcoming election. While London is the location where women gathered from all over the country to fight for the vote, many young women today are less than inspired.
According to a recent poll on young voters, with just days away from the general elections, one in eight people aged 18 to 29 are planning not to vote. As British comedian Russell Brand, notoriously demonstrated in an interview with the BBC, there is little incentive for young people to vote, and particularly for young women.
Despite the efforts of Ed Milliband and David Cameron to appeal to younger voters, many feel disengaged from the body politic as a whole. A study conducted by the Parliament revealed that "one-in-six of the UK population is currently aged 65 and over". Moreover, research by the British Election Study suggests that people over 65 are also more likely to vote, causing this segment of the population to be over-represented in elections.
With this in mind, it is easy to criticise young Brits for their lukewarm political involvement. However, the candidates' inability to engage younger voters through their campaigns demonstrates a clear lack of inter-generational communication. For example, the issue of sexual harassment is highly visible on blogs and social media, but rarely discussed in political campaigns. This directly engages with younger women but is also applicable to all generations and genders and could easily be used to target younger voters.
While many young people are informed of political action through the media or otherwise, learning the specific function and organisation of the government is not part of the public education system. The exclusion of young people from political debate and the apathy of young voters are mutually exclusive. By the time they reach voting age, many are uninterested because they either do not relate to the issues discussed or do not feel that their generation matters.
Even though the UK was home to the Suffragette movement, young women are more likely than young men to be absent on Election Day. This is true even though feminism has made a significant come back both culturally and in the media. A great deal of the feminist discussion is being driven by young women fighting to have their voices heard by the media, but not by the politicians.
Women make up less than 25% of the total serving MPs, many of whom are over the age of 40. Given this information, it is clear why women, in particular young women, feel they have little representation in politics. Not only do the larger political parties' campaigns fail to target women in general, but also when they are targeted, it is only in relation to traditionally "women's" issues.
The Labour party's pink bus is arguably the most notorious effort to encourage women to vote. While the "Woman to Woman" campaign makes an effort to engage with women voters, it seems to have unintentionally diminished the significance of the very cause it was attempting to promote. Both men and women quickly took to Twitter and other social media to criticise the patronising colour scheme.
Furthermore, 4Children recently held an all-female panel to discuss issues such as childcare and family budgets to encourage women to vote. These efforts - no matter the intention - exclude men from the discussion, further solidifying the idea that feminism and gender equality are only relevant to women. In reality, gender equality is beneficial for both women and men. Moreover, these efforts completely exclude women who are either uninterested in or unable to have children.
There has been little discussion of equal pay, sexism in the work place, and the cultural equality of genders. Many young women face sexual harassment in their place of work and at university. The National Union of Students found that 37% of women had experienced unwelcome sexual advances during their education. This is particularly significant when considering the fact that a great deal of sexual harassment goes unreported.
Despite the enthusiasm for women's voices and the success of campaigns like HeForShe to include men in the discussion, when it comes to politics, feminism is still defined by traditional gender roles, which cast women as maternally as opposed to individually driven. While the issues of childcare and parental leave are important, they do little to include younger women. Politicians need to beware of what Nicola Kemp, Head of Features at Marketing Magazine, calls "Pinkwashing". She explains: "women are not a niche group of homogenous views, yet marketing from the major political parties suggests they continue to be viewed as such."
If women are expected to participate in the elections, they should certainly be included in the result.Suggest a correction