Our voices in power: the importance of women in politics
Updated: Mar 12, 2022
It should go without saying that the presence and inclusion of women in politics is critical for a more functional society and democracy. But not everyone believes this, so FEL-writer Luma Andrade breaks down the importance of women in politics and the need for more non-cis gender women in politics.
I had just returned from my first women's march in 2017, when I came across an old Guardian's article on the internet. The article discussed many sexist moments in politics, and among these, the harassment of Cécile Duflot, the French housing minister, suddenly touched on my insecurities: could I ever be a woman in politics? Is there a place for my voice, any female-identifying voice, in a political landscape where wearing a dress was seen as asking to be ignored? As a fifteen-year-old girl actively participating in a political movement for the first time, it was strangely unsettling to think that my generation was still fighting for gender equality in basic system structures.
Systemic changes can be frightening for those whose minds are based on a traditional past, ego, and sexism. Think with me: why do so many privileged people make donations to marginalised communities, while proudly voting for those who marginalise them? The answer is rather objective. Meaningful changes in the system can be viewed as a threat by those who have established themselves in power. They are concerned about their positions, wealth, social standing, and a variety of other factors. In their perspectives, changing the system deprives them (the privileged) of this ego-boosting opportunity. But they still contribute to charity to try and feel good about their own perpetration of a system that favours the wealthy and oppresses the underprivileged.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union data for 2021, women serve as Heads of State or Government in 22 out of 190 nations. And I repeat: 22 out of 190 nations! The facts are disturbing: how can we talk about democratic representation when women's participation and representation are so severely lacking? In truth, what purpose does representation serve? Throughout history, white cis-gender males have dominated the political scene (and not only!). As I am sure you have noticed in our patriarchal culture, this signifies very little multicultural, gender and disability inclusive representation. To create a highly democratic society, we need descriptive representation in power structures. In 1967, Pitkin defined descriptive representation as all the instances in which a citizen shares significant characteristics with their representative. And these shared characteristics range from race, ethnicity, gender, ableism, and so on.
I was going to say that it would be amazing to know the answer - but I have to be honest with you, it is more than that. It is an unmet need that has gone unnoticed for far too long - the need for the protection of our fundamental human rights, as well as a forum for our voices. I need to know that my rights and interests will not be jeopardised only because I am a woman, and that there are women in positions of power who care, fight, and advocate for us. Increasing women's participation in politics would result in a more equal, sustainable, and fair system. As proven by research, women and men are shown to have distinct legislative priorities. This study presented that developing nations with higher levels of women parliamentarians are more likely to enact comprehensive legislation against sensitive issues related to women and by extension to society as a whole, such as sexual harassment, rape, divorce, and domestic violence. With this in mind, one fundamental reason for the importance of women in politics becomes clear: the need of representation of the needs of more than half of a population
The end of male supremacy in politics is advantageous in a variety of ways. Women's participation and involvement advance economic and development progress as they become more integrated into the labor market and are given greater possibilities to acquire positions of power, therefore increasing the chances of breaking the financial dependency cycle that many individuals are trapped in. But it does not stop there - the entire nation benefits from this inclusion. After all, we can only live as an equal and thriving society if we jointly make intersectional and collaborative decisions together.
Women still face a number of obstacles when it comes to participating in political life. Discriminatory laws, persistent gender roles, unequal distribution of family care responsibilities, and other structural barriers to our political participation are just a few examples. We are, however, slowly but rising to positions of power and providing tangible evidence of how much of a difference we make for the better! The 62 percent increase in drinking-water projects in India under women-led councils is only one of many examples that demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of a diverse administration
Racist, colonial, and gendered beliefs are still prevalent in society today, as unbelievable as that may sound.. Because of this, we not only need white cisgender women in politics, but also women of color, trans women, women with disabilities, and indigenous women.
In particular, to gain an insight on trans women’s opinion on this topic, I spoke with Deena Mughal (she/her), an English trans architecture student, and Samantha Peetz (she/her), an American trans student, artist and writer.
Despite coming from two different countries, both expressed strong dissatisfaction with the amount of trans women's political participation in their respective countries. As we witness the rise of the implementation of anti-trans bills in the United States, Samantha expressed that "...none of our elected officials truly understands the difficulties and concerns of the queer community, particularly trans people, and especially trans people of color." Furthermore, she remarked that "it would mean so much to have trans women's presence in politics, just for the fact that they could give invaluable testimony of the trans experience whenever anti-trans ideology inevitably pops up." On the same subject of representation, Deena highlighted her dissatisfaction with the lack of trans persons in the Gender Recognition Act debate, saying there was "Not a single voice to express the needs and concerns of those whose future is being decided."
The lack of political representation of cis and non-cisgender, indigenous, disabled, and women of colour in politics undermines community realities and keeps them in a more marginalised domain of society, one in which they must battle for their existence to survive structural and cultural violences. Hundreds of years have passed, yet our systems remain based on reluctance to change. But we continue to stand and fight because everybody matters and deserves their voices to be heard.
By Luma Andrade