The Bristol mayoral election has had one consistent line in nearly every article I have read (and written) about it: one female candidate out of 15 for mayor. It sounds dramatic but then what? One answer may be found – ironically, in this case, rather than aptly – in a self-professed feminist’s blog post. Aside from the very useful mention of women’s issues**, she goes on to criticise and decry a male, red-trouser wearing, wealthy candidate and chooses another male candidate for whom to vote.
And you know what, that’s ok. She, Bristol_Jane, can vote for any man she likes. I can choose, if I was a time traveller, to not vote for Margaret Thatcher even though she is a woman.
You vote for what people will do rather than what they look like. It is their policies which are either feminised or masculine – they either support various individuals and practices by balancing out inequality and power relations or they entrench the unbalanced power relations.
That sounds a bit theoretical: in practical terms, individual rights, support for abused people, housing, forests, nature, things that support humanity and empower and energise the world are generally feminised* policies. *not feminist – different kettle of fish
Destruction, growth for growth’s sake, pollution, anger, power centralisation, policies that benefit unequal power relations are seen as masculine. This is not an exhaustive or even uncontested list so share your own thoughts if you would like.
Criticising people for their gender, appearance and status, however, has nothing to do with politics. Judging people on their policies does but George Ferguson doesn’t really have any so @Bristol_Jane’s description of some of his behaviour (however much she projected malice and indifference in it) is probably a little bit useful.
But that statement, of one in 15, isn’t exactly right and it’s been bugging me why. Part of it is because the group are not homogeneous. In a radio broadcast about the exclusion of 10 candidates from the Bristol Culture hustings, Rich Fisher, an independent candidate said ‘well we’re applying for the same kind of job’ or words to that effect.
Job? Accepting responsibility for hundreds of thousands’ of people’s lives and determining their destiny, health and well-being is just a job? It’s not. It’s the biggest thing you can do for other people and some of the candidates are not really showing that they take it seriously (according to their manifestos, or lack thereof).
Daniella Radice, for the Green party, has one of the most detailed manifestos of all the candidates. She has policies, goals and a perspective on how to play her part. She is more than a woman in a group / gaggle of men. She is a serious contender for the mayoral election and there are only four or five others who are the same. One in five serious candidates is a woman. She also happens to be promoting a respectful society with individual care via feminised policies and politics.
Thatcher was a woman too but that does not make her politics anymore feminised. This is all a bit of a precursor to dealing with Zoe William’s spurious link of testosterone politics and one in 15 candidates being a woman. That’s not the only thing wrong with that article but another post will have to do.
**I am being sincere in this point – this is the only blog post I have seen, although I haven’t looked, with a listing of events about women’s issues as part of the election, and not only.
Update 2: I realise I should have quoted her post for evidence. The purpose of her post is as follows:
“As an independent feminist, these are my personal thoughts on why Marvin Rees is the right person for the job… and why a vote for George Ferguson would be a retrograde step for the women of Bristol.”
The comments about Ferguson’s appearance, status and gender are mentioned in the following quotations:
Marvin is a born and bred Bristolian, and doesn’t seem to be using the mayoral election as a springboard to a career in parliament. At 40, Marvin’s comparative youth (compared to some of the other candidates) is also in his favour in my opinion – the last thing Bristol needs is yet another stodgy, middle-aged, over-privileged, out-of-touch, middle-class man in charge. We don’t need or want a wealthy, attention-seeking person in charge – we want someone who is in touch with reality.
Argh… George relies on novelty trousers to create a personality. We don’t need a showman mayor in a pantomime costume (we could vote for Dave Dobbs from the BirthdayParty if we really want a mayor in a zany suit) – we need someone who puts Bristol first, not their ego.
Again my emphasis.