Some people may claim that the UK government is embracing gender equality, yet the appointment of a female Prime Minister does not mean that the British political system offers an equal platform for both men and women. It is evident that women in politics are still subjected to sexist and discriminatory remarks, undermining their power and authority. Moreover, with the current reassertion of the dominance of right-wing white men, the sexist treatment of women is becoming all too commonplace.
Reports have recently surfaced which expose insulting and sexist behaviour towards two different female politicians by Tory MPs. Diane Abbot, an MP who is no stranger to sexism and discrimination, was subjected to cruel body-shaming insults via a text sent by Conservative cabinet minister David Davis.
After attempting to embrace Abbot as a result of her choice to vote in favour of invoking Article 50, and being brushed off, text messages were leaked in which Davis made insulting remarks about Abbot.
Another incident occurred in the House of Commons in which Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soame made ‘woof’ noises at SNP parlementarian Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh whilst she addressed the house during a debate. Behaviour such as this seems backward, especially as these are the people who are supposed to be running the country, and is a reflection of the discrimination faced by female politicians, and women everywhere, on a day to day basis.
This rise in sexism correlates with the rise of an overbearing right-wing masculinity which is currently dominating politics. An image which is particularly telling of this fact is that of Donald Trump signing anti-abortion papers surrounded by a group of white men. This masculine dominance within the Trump administration highlights further developments in the mistreatment of women in politics, and it would be naïve to claim that Britain does not have a similar problem.
In his bid to stop Donald Trump from addressing parliament, the speaker for the House of Commons John Bercow stated that he felt very strongly that opposition to “racism and sexism” were “hugely important considerations in the House of Commons”, which highlights his failure to notice the blatant sexism which is occurring right under his nose, and underlines the need to raise awareness of such incidents.
But the undermining of women in positions of power does not only occur within parliament itself. The chief councillors of Wigan and Doncaster set up a rival Northern Conference event after discovering that the original event was dominated by male speakers, with only one in seven female speakers, and no female speakers being promoted in the event’s advertising. The councillors’ actions demonstrate what must be done to combat the innate sexism in politics.
More awareness must be raised about the marginalisation and misogyny which women in positions of power must face, and a conscious effort must be made to ensure equal inclusion for both genders in corporate and parliamentary events.
Theresa May must make her position clear in her rejection of misogynistic and discriminatory attitudes within parliament, and in wider public life. This does not necessarily equate to a rejection of Trump and all other politicians like him, as John Bercow advocates, but rather a distancing of British politics from such values. To prevent this issue, it is evident that British politicians must rise above such playground behaviour and approach their colleagues with integrity and decorum, regardless of their gender.