In an online article A woman’s place? The British House of Commons CHÉ RAMSDEN on 29 March 2016 speaks of everyday sexism experienced in the UK parliament and the extraordinarily unrepresentative nature of its membership.
On representation - more male MPs in the current Parliament than female MPs ever elected in the entire history of parliament:
There are currently more male MPs in office (459 – of whom 436 are white) than the number of women MPs in UK history (450). A 100:0 ratio of men to women in the House of Commons was accepted for most of the institution's history; today, the ratio is 71:29. Yet aiming for the opposite - a 29:71 or 0:100 men to women ratio - seems inconceivable. Only under patriarchy will we pay lip service to ‘equality’ while seeking to cap women’s representation at 50%.
Gender redress - where parliament would be predominantly female seems unlikely in current circumstances.
50:50 is more achievable and a better fit with representative democracy now.
Historical redress to match the history of gender representation in the House of Representatives in Australia we guess (we have not done the sums) would require more than half a century of all-female representation.
On everyday sexism - bullying, mockery and unprofessional behaviour accepted as 'banter':
Despite women having voting parity with men since 1928 when over-21s were enfranchised, women’s experiences in the House of Commons show that this is not a space designed for or inclusive of women. The report for the Administration Committee on women’s experiences in Parliament, published in August 2015, highlights that women MPs and MPs from minority backgrounds are made to feel unwelcome by a ‘public-school boy ethos’. This is a culture which accepts bullying, mockery and other unprofessional behaviour as ‘banter’.
Perhaps standards of parliamentary behaviour should also be similarly reviewed in Australia?
On whether woman politicians in a male system necessarily ‘do good for women’ - in a male dominated system not every woman is a champion of women's interests:
That is not to say that simply being a woman in Parliament means you will do better for women, inside or outside Parliament – Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister is a case in point. But equally it is hard to imagine a party dominated by women proposing such a ludicrous policy as domestic violence support services having to bid for funding from the spoils of a tax which considers sanitary products ‘luxury items’. We have also seen how governments like Sweden’s, which are willing to identify as feminist, approach all policy formulation – not just ‘women’s issues’ – with a different framework.
The problem of women not necessarily being 'good for women' is documented in Australia by Anne Summers in her book The end of equality 2003. That is why a system of dual male and female electoral representation may allow more women into parliament who are not bound to moribund male-dominated party agendas.
On how to get elected - focusing on party systems for candidate selection:
At the ‘How to get elected’ panel, Women’s Equality Party representative Hannah Peaker described how, as a new party, they were able to review the entire system of candidate selection from scratch. Their findings are lessons in inclusivity: that application forms were long and unwieldy, and required too much irrelevant personal history; that candidates need childcare while they are campaigning; and that if you want a pool of diverse, representative candidates then you need a diverse membership.
These are not radical solutions, but it is surprising that political institutions, including parties, have not yet adopted them.
If not even the least radical solutions can be accepted by the parties in the current system - why not change the system?