The total inclusion of women in the political debate is a prerequisite for a functional democracy. However, the means by which the Labour party has sought to achieve this end are inherently misguided. The “pink bus”, through which Labour has intended to connect with the female electorate, is condescending, degrading and, frankly, almost comical.
One would hope that the polarisation of gender would be restrained from the political sphere
The notion that women would be won over by a colour, with which their gender has been rigidly and conservatively associated with for some time, is another affirmation of the sexism embedded in our society. Stereotypes are forced upon us from the word go; most obviously in the form of gendered clothing and toys, and continue into adulthood through helpfully branded gender specific products, which even permeate the world of stationary with Bic pens for Ladies, glue for girls and Sellotape “just for girls”. One would hope that the polarisation of gender would be restrained from the political sphere. Evidently not.
I know many people will argue that it is harmless and light-hearted: a flawed publicity stunt at worst. However, publicity stunts tend to embody popular opinion, in order that they may appeal to the masses. I would suggest that, in this case, the stunt embodies what politicians believe will appeal to those who are classically stereotyped as “girly girls”, and indeed this only serves to increase the problem.
The thing is, either way you look at it, Labour’s manifesto has already been written – so why are they now suddenly seeking the opinions of women?
Natasha Walter, author of the book Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, argues that Labour have chosen to use pink because they believe it will communicate their message “in shorthand” but she suggests that using the suffragette colours (purple, green and white) rather than pink, would be a more “effective way of using colour to say something for women”, especially within the political context.
Harriet Harman declared that “the reason it had to be eye-catching is because there’s a big hole in our democratic politics at the moment. In 2010 at the last general election, 9.1 million women didn’t vote”. The thing is, either way you look at it, Labour’s manifesto has already been written – so why are they now suddenly seeking the opinions of women? I believe that this is little more than a superficial attempt to gain the support of women who would otherwise not be voting, and therefore constitute a key swing vote.
It is, frankly, patronising to seek the involvement of the female electorate on such arbitrary terms, a mere few months before the general election when it surely won’t have much of an effect. And, as for pink? No thanks.
Image courtesy of Home MCR via Flickr