As a female and a passionate political follower, it is both upsetting and demoralising to witness the treatment of some of the most influential women and the actions of some of the most powerful men in the world. Women face an uphill battle in the world of politics with the scrutiny and comments that they are subject to that their male counter parts are not. Powerful and influential men play a key role in this, and there are some that evidentially believe that they can get away with such actions because of their positions. This article is not ‘male bashing’ and it is not saying either that all men are like this. What it is doing is exposing the barriers and mistreatment in politics across the world that women face as without knowing this, how we will we ever know what needs to change?
On a global scale, women are significantly underrepresented in terms voters and holding leading political positions. As at August 2015, only 22% of all national parliamentarians were female. Considering this figure sat at 11.5% in 1995, there has been an increase of only 1.05% per year. With the topics of equality and women’s rights becoming ever present, this marginal increase is not acceptable. The conditions that women face and the treatment that they are subjected, compared to their male compatriots, are unquestionably factors relating to these statistics.
A prime example of the unjust treatment faced by women in the world of politics can be seen by look at Australia’s Julian Gillard and the Hilary Clinton, of the United States. Ms Gillard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister was subjected to blithering discrimination during the time she served her country in one of the highest national positions. She recently highlighted the treatment she faced in an opinion piece written for The New York Times from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Her words spoke of the similar treatment that Mrs Clinton, the first female nominee of a major political party in the United States, had been subjected to during her election run. She likened Mrs Clinton’s treatment to that when radio host of a national Australian station, Alan Jones, called for her to be placed in chaff bag and taken out to sea. Would a male have received such comments by a national broadcaster? Probably not. Mrs Clinton faced similar comments when the senior advisor to Republican nominee Donald Trump, Al Baldasaro, called for her to face the firing squad.
Both Ms Gillard and Mrs Clinton have broken through the glass ceiling for women in politics. They are not afraid to voice their rights and have called for voters, both male and female, to call out sexism in politics. Strongly believing that no female should have to deal with such treatment alone.
It is not only the women in direct political roles that have been subjected to sexist treatment, it is also the actions of men in high standing political positions that believe they are able to get away with certain behaviour because of their status. Former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was well known for his sexist treatment towards women during his time leading the country. One of his most memorable comments was when said that right ring women were more beautiful to those of the left wing party, as they apparently had “no taste”. Why he thought such comments were appropriate or acceptable to make is something that no one will know except Mr Berlusconi himself. There are many other examples of the former Prime Minister’s sexist comments including from 2009 when he said to the president of the Italian Democratic Party on live television, Rosy Bindi, that she was “more beautiful than intelligent”.
Country to country, the above comments or otherwise sexist treatment by those in politically powerful positions does not seem to be an uncommon practice. Such is the case that seventeen prominent former female government ministers, including the Chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde, have publically attacked the sexism and sexual harassment that faces women in French politics. This group of powerful women have pledged to make public “all the sexist remarks, behaviours and inappropriate gestures”. These women believe that as they have reached male dominated circles of power, they have faced an ongoing battle against sexism.
One of the most powerful institutions in the world, the IMF has been drawn into such allegations and it was Ms Lagarde’s predecessor and one time French President hopeful, Dominique Strauss-Kaun, who was the face behind this. Mr Strauss-Kaun faced criminal charges of sexual assault and attempted rape of a hotel employee where he was staying in New York in 2011. He resigned as the head of the IMF following his arrest, though these charges were later dropped due to a civil agreement that was made with the employee.
The exposure and realisation of the sexist treatment that women are facing in the world of politics is the first step to change. Conversations that question how such treatment of women still exists need to happen. These conversations begin with people like you, who have their whole lives ahead of them. Be that male or female, you all have the ability to put a stop to this so that no future female will ever be subjected to such treatment and no future male will ever have to witness this. This barrier in the political world needs to be broken, it needs to be torn down and it all begins with the most important persons actions and that person is you.