making it count

I am a fan of anything free. I am also a fan of reading. I am therefore a huge fan of anything free that I can read, particularly if it makes public transport in London any more endurable. Usually the newspapers and magazines that are thrust upon us as we are dragged underground by the masses only to obstruct escalators or serve to line the floors, making the 9.35am wane of the rush hour resemble an oversized animal cage. However, yesterday as I was reading the usual drivel about which shoes to wear with which coat and which tiny animal would fit in my tiny bag, I came across a fact that I just cannot shake.

In 2005, only 61% of women used their vote in the General Election.

Come on, you didn’t think I could avoid writing something about what is allegedly going to be the most tense, turbulent, historical, charged and [insert excited hyperbolic adjective here] election in the last 30 years.

It would be easy for me to launch into some tirade against women who don’t vote and the like but I have had a rather long week at work and there are most likely thousands of other angry feminists who are using their bandwidth to vocalise their anger or perhaps incite a second wave attack of vigilantism. Instead, I am going to adopt a more passive aggressive approach and spiel off some facts….facts I may or may not have stolen from the aforementioned free magazine article that kept me entertained on my commute.

Living with five boys, I often find myself having to repress my inner Greer so it wasn’t surprising that when I exclaimed that “only 61% of women voted in the last election” their reaction was “oh, that’s pretty good”. What?

While Iceland may still be a sore point after the whole volcano debacle, it turns out that almost 80% of women use their vote. So why is it that women in the UK are so hesitant (unwilling? uninterested?) to vote?

Hell, I am not even going to attempt to answer that question.

All I know is that Emily Davison did not throw herself under a horse in 1913 to let us sit back and watch the votes pile in, knowing that they are not those same votes the Suffragettes fought for us to have. Apparently one of the main reasons why the government denied women their right to vote for so long was because during the 19th and 20th century there were more women than men. So logistically, if women were able to vote they would inevitably gain a majority- god forbid.

Finally in 1927, the government yielded and all women over 18 were allowed to vote. But now, less than 100 years later women are still without a vote- except now it is voluntarily which, in itself, makes it all the more concerning. How can women aim for equality if we are refusing the right we fought so hard for, and gave our lives for? We in the UK consider ourselves ahead of the game when it comes to equality and are so quick to jump on the backs of other cultures where women play a more submissive- no, I hate that word- play a more obscured role in society, claiming they are repressed and trapped by men…Hang on, if our women aren’t voting then surely we are the ones allowing ourselves to be repressed by men?

Amazingly, it seems the very cultures that are so often subject to enraged feminist analysis, are the ones that the UK should perhaps take notice of. In Rwanda, 56.3% of MPs are women while the Iraqi government is made up of 25.5%. The UK? 19.5%. To use the old adage, it’s a catch 22 situation- we want women to vote and get interested and involved in politics but there are no women in power to entice them. And, dare I say it, what is the likelihood of a male majority voting a female MP into Parliament? How can we expect to raise a society of young voting women when there is a distinct lack of any strong female political models as their foremothers. How very Madwoman in the Attic.

Then again, if you are looking for inspirational political foremothers- look no further than the Suffragettes themselves.

I’m in no way pretending that I know very much about politics but I know about my right to take part in democracy- whether or not my chosen party gets into power or whether my chosen party listens to what I want. It is interesting to think that as I write, the nation’s ballots are being counted around the country trying to decide who will take over responsibility of our ailing Blighty. Whoever we wake up to as our government tomorrow morning, they have got some job on their hands. My prediction is that there will be a whole lot of hanging. But as I said, I know far too little about the mechanics of politics and parliamentary elections to offer anything more profound than “make sure that c*nt moves out”.

All I know is that while there may have been a price tag on a woman’s vote in the early 1900s but now what is our excuse. Our votes are free, we just need to make sure we cash in.

Thanks Emmeline.

This entry was published on May 6, 2010 at 9:57 pm. It’s filed under Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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