The political world is in need of a makeover. The bleak coalition conclusion of the last general election resulted in four years of false promises, rising house prices and destruction around the world. On the eve of 2015’s general election, the young female vote has never been so important. Out of all 17.9million people that didn’t turn up and put their pens to polling cards in 2010, it was the young female voters who were the largest group of no shows. Perhaps last time around the choice was slim, but parliaments club of private school boys has finally been injected with the possibility of a future as bright as Leanne Wood’s hot pink suit.
Historically speaking, politics doesn’t have the best relationship with feminism. Our first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reportedly claimed, “I hate feminism. It is poison,” whilst our current leader, David Cameron refused to wear a “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt. To top it all off, last December introduced laws to censor UK porn acts deemed pleasurable and empowering for women. While Nick Clegg has attempted to close the ever-existing pay gap between men and women in large business, Ed Miliband has promised to tackle domestic and sexual violence against women – but why have these steps to tackle gender inequality taken so long? The sad matter of the fact is that it’s still a man’s world out there; women are consistently objectified daily and perceived as the second sex within our misogynistic society.
Thankfully, there are three beacons of light, and their names are Natalie Bennett, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood. The leaders of the Green Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru have broken up the boy’s only gang in Westminster and are beating them at their favourite game. With Bennett’s moral manifesto, Wood’s sweet sense of compassion and superwoman Sturgeon- who alone can single handedly put any of the male leaders back in their place- we have three independent women who together become the political dream team. Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Farage continue to bitch, blame and backstab, but Bennett, Wood and Sturgeon show support and refer to each other as “my friend.” Arguably the most powerful image to appear out of politics since Katherine Hamnett met Margaret Thatcher in her “58% don’t want perishing” t-shirt, is that of the three female leaders hugging after the BBC televised debate. While Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage experienced a real life, “you can’t sit with us!” moment, the trio of women presented a symbolic gesture of what the future of politics could look like. That’s a political future that stands together to fight for equality and breaks down our ever so grey patriarchal parliament.
It feels like we’ve reached a pinnacle moment in politics with change on the horizon, but why will this election be any different from the last? We’ve recently witnessed the rise of girlishness, a digital movement that bubbled on the underground and forced feminism into the mainstream. Despite the sickly sweet and aggressively girly aesthetic, at the heart of this movement are strong social and political manifestos. At the core of the creativity of this movement is the fight for female empowerment and gender equality, encouraging a whole new generation to stick their middle fingers up to the patriarchy and dye their hair pink. This is the same generation that happens to be first time voters.
We’re consistently dubbed the selfie-obsessed generation, but actually we’re the ones that care. The youth of today were brought up on the internet and are now rising up and fighting back, using online activism as their weapon of choice. We’ve already seen the power of the #hashtag and what difference social media can make to the reality through demonstrations such as #freethenipple and #EndTamponTax – the latter of which prompted a desperate Nigel Farage to make a weak attempt to secure female voters with his pledge to abolish tampon tax…(if we leave the EU). It seems the movement that started with shiny stickers and glittery GIFs has been simultaneously on the rise with the female politicians, culminating- now matter how coincidental- with a girl power moment in politics.
Perhaps it was a lack of engagement and preferences that lead only 39% of us to vote at the last general election, but votes for women has never been so important. In 2015, it feels like finally we could be on the way to an end of a patriarchal parliament. The oh-so-sexist tabloids are more concerned with photoshopping Nicola Sturgeon’s head to Miley Cyrus’s body swinging on a wrecking ball or lazily branding Natalie Bennett “quinoa-munching, hedgehog obsessed” than praising these strong women, and that makes the perfect confirmation that we need to end to our shamefully sexist society. For the first time in what seems like forever, we don’t have to decide between the lesser of two evils. Perhaps we should all vote Green, ideological they may be, but it’s better to live in hope than in fear of terror and capitalism. Miliband may have ruled out plans to join forces with the SNP, but it could be the only glimmer of hope he has to fight off Cameron for another four years. In fact Bennett, Sturgeon and Wood have all promised to back Labour in order to rid a Tory government. As the saying goes, behind every great man there’s a great woman, but in this case there could be three. That sounds like a political path to get on board with.
Words by Billie Brand
Illustrations by Sarah McCormack