I was pretty patronised by Labour’s now infamous pink bus, until I read the actual article in the Guardian and realised there were far bigger worries on that front than simply the colour of the transport. Such as the fact Labour appear to think women are to be found “around the kitchen table” and has “decided” our priorities are “childcare, social care, domestic violence, equal pay and political representation”. The stereotypical ‘caring’ aspects of politics to match women’s stereotypically ‘caring’ roles within society.
I found this particular quote incredibly worrying. Lucy Powell, one of Labour’s general election co-ordinators said that Labour was taking its message to female voters because they wanted to “have a conversation about the kitchen table and around the kitchen table” rather than having an “economy that just reaches the boardroom table”. Because of course a woman’s natural habitat is in the kitchen. It sounds like something a politician from the 1970s would have come out with, let’s put economics into terms the little woman can understand!
This seems to be very much promoting a view of women as mothers and caregivers, and nothing else, who can be found in the kitchen and at the school gates (well neither are where you’ll find me or I imagine many other women, especially in the current economy when being a stay at home mum with time to drop off and pick up your kids from school is a luxury many cannot afford anyway!). The worst of this of course is that women are disadvantaged and under-represented within politics and this kind of approach to the issue simply makes things worse. We wind up laughing at or affronted by a poorly thought through campaign tactic instead of focusing on the aspects of politics that put women off becoming involved (such as a media more interested in what female politicians are wearing than what they’re saying) and the growing apathy and voter turnout that’s not simply evident amongst women but the population at large. We’re not Barbie dolls, our clothes are not more important than our politics, and we don’t need a pink van, we need to seen as equals instead of something ‘other’.