MPs were not allowed to change their minds once they had entered the voting lobby and headded ‘surprisingly the rule was not changed […] even when women became MPs’.Everywhere you look, the idea that women simply aren’t suited to politicsseems to be deeply ingrained, with even direct evidence of strong femaleleaders being twisted to fit the stereotype instead of debunking it.▶I was discussing politics with a guy I know who began to say how much he admiredMargaret Thatcher [...] This guy later told me, in the same conversation, that women shouldn’tever be leaders. I said, ‘Well what about Thatcher?’ He then told me ‘she was basically a mananyway [...] she had a male brain’. So obviously women don’t owe their success to hard workand have to hope they have masculine qualities to make up for it.
One frustrating consequence of women being underrepresented in politics isthat often anywoman is seen first and foremost to represent allwomen, asif she speaks and advocates for them, and can be judged as if allwomankind stands or falls by her actions. Creasy says: ‘The notion that Icould represent all women: that’s a thing that really annoys me. As thoughwomen aren’t very diverse – as though we’re quite homogenous really inwhat we care about. Somehow, men are multifaceted and talented andrepresent all sorts of different things, but women? The prime minister canhave *a*woman to advise on women – job done!’This is particularly pertinent when you consider the enormous politicalunderrepresentation of women of colour, disabled women and LBGTQwomen – none of whom are miraculously ‘included’ in the debate simplyby the introduction of a white, middle-class female voice.And, just as in business, the visibility of women lower down the rungs ofpolitical power is often used as a veneer of equality, to ignore even greatergender imbalance higher up. Even the aforementioned eleven-year-oldsseemed satisfied by it, commenting: ‘There are quite a few women inpolitics but they’re not like the president or prime minister, because menrule.’In addition, argues Kezia Dugdale, the underrepresentation activelydiscourages female politicians from taking up the mantle of ‘women’sissues’, lest they become ‘labelled’ with a reputation for ‘softness’. Shesays this doesn’t stop her fighting for the issues about which she feelspassionate, but: ‘You do have that thought in the back of your head of notjust wanting to be seen as somebody who’s constantly raising issues arounddomestic violence or gender inequality or everyday sexism […] I can senseit – Oh, there she goes again…’And indeed the very notion that there is such a thing in politics as a‘women’s issue’ is deeply damaging – not just to the women fighting forthose causes but also to society at large. The political marginalizationcaused by labelling problems such as domestic violence ‘women’s issues’ isinestimable. Here women are ostracized from mainstream policies by theimplication that their focus should be only on those that affect them directly– which of course in turn mutes their voices in other debates. To boot, the