If you were paying attention during the lead up to the Scottish referendum, you may have seen this hideous advert doing the rounds…
Believe it or not, this advert was specifically designed by the No Campaign to target women. They argue it reflected the concerns they heard from women as they campaigned and talked to people ‘on the doorstep’. Unfortunately, it is so horrendously patronising and offensive it singlehandedly persuaded me that, had I been Scottish, I would have voted Yes just to prove to them that motherhood/being a woman doesn’t automatically preclude the ability to take part in a serious conversation about politics.
It is true that parenthood can be busy, tiring and feel like it drains your ability to focus on much beyond getting home from work and figuring how to cook anything which requires more than just switching on the oven, but that doesn’t mean we don’t. We may well be surrounded by cereal bowls and toy tractors (though really, she could have tidied up before the cameras came round!), but we still have a mind of our own and are perfectly capable of using it.
If we ever let ourselves slide towards conforming to these lazy stereotypes we risk losing our voice altogether, and we can’t. Women are already massively under-represented in politics so we need to push our voices loudly and clearly. As mothers, we should have the greatest interest in politics – there’s no point fussing over how much sugar our children eat, taking them along to stimulating baby music classes and researching every aspect of childhood before we make any decisions if you let the world around the go to pot. We’re all guilty of focussing too much on the silly little aspects of family life (blog about annoying kiddy songs anyone?) and not enough on the bigger picture.
As the party political seasons gets underway, I’m minded to think more about what I should be doing. I am not advocating party politics – there’s no way I want to get involved in that right now – but I do think more mums need to get involved in politics with a small p. We need to be aware of the big stuff: stuff like the massive cuts to legal aid which are undermining the very fabric of our justice system, like the ever-looming threat of climate change, like the fact that two women every week are killed by their partner, that we all know that horrifying statistic but more and more we just accept it as the way things are. We need to care about the changes to education which mean schools risk becoming results factories rather than places our children are cared for and nurtured as individuals. We need to fight to preserve the NHS, which everyone agrees is one of the greatest things about our country and probably helped deliver all of our children, but which is so fragile we could lose it as it stands if we’re not careful. Finally, we need to think about other people’s children, children elsewhere in the world who are growing up without food, water and under the constant threat of war; as our government is about to be recalled to consider our role in fighting IS, I feel helpless and clueless, but the very least we should be doing is making ourselves less clueless and paying attention to what is going on outside our own little sphere.
I’m not sure what the best way is to do it, or how much difference it will make, but it’s worth us all paying a little more attention to ‘politics’, because maybe one day ‘Paul’ really will be too busy eating his cereal and it’ll be up to us to make the difference.