Does Nicola Sturgeon represent hope to women in Scotland?
The fact that being a female politician is still a source of discussion, is telling about the state of gender equality, or lack of, in the world. But until we get to the day where we can just say politician, and the fact whether they are female or male is moot, we should all lend our voices to the discussion.
On Saturday morning, the 9th of May, Britain woke up to the news that Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, and head of the SNP party, had won a majority in Scotland. The SNP won a staggering 56 out of 59 seats, and is now the biggest party challenger to the Westminster Conservatives.
It would be a mistake to explain Sturgeon’s progress and success as a result of her being female, because it is more to do with who she is as a person, driven, warm, articulate, incredibly intelligent and compassionate. But there are certain things that do stand out because of her gender.
The first thing to notice was the difference in tone between her and Alex Salmond at the point of the SNP majority. While Salmond puffed his chest about a roaring Scottish Lion, Sturgeon’s response in contrast was:
‘And to those who didn’t vote @theSNP yesterday, we will do our best by you too and seek to win your trust’.
She doesn’t try and scare you, or bullishly convince you, but promises to work with you to gain your trust. This is particularly interesting in terms of gender, because we’ve grown up with politics being communicated in a narrative of macho performativity, and recently Ed Milliband was criticised for not being ‘masculine’ enough. If the language of politics started to become more collaborative and compassionate because of a stronger female presence, it can only be a good and progressive thing.
Unfortunately, Nicola Sturgeon did not escape the usual fate of being a female in the public eye, and had a lot of questions directed to her about her appearance and what she wore. She cleverly turned this into a way to advocate Scottish design talent, turning an ostracising moment into an opportunity to showcase what she believes in. Another unfortunate incident of the General Election was labour’s ‘pink bus’– who wants to be pigeon holed as a female voter as opposed to just a voter? Hopefully, with more women in politics, we would see less of this kind of behaviour.
Speaking to a few of my friends in Scotland, they definitely feel a growing sense of anticipation and excitement about Nicola Sturgeon and her politics. You could even see this during the general election when the first 3 announcements came in, it was all women who were elected, and people were tweeting “right now 100% of our elected MPs are women”. It felt hopeful, like a new and exciting future. In the wake of the election, people are indeed feeling hopeful about what Nicola Sturgeon would do next:
‘I would like to see her commanding respect regardless of her gender – from all sides of the political spectrum, whether people agree with her views or not – based on the fact she has conviction, knows her stuff, and seems to have the ambition and tenacity to push on key issues.’
The main reason to hope is that Nicola Sturgeon stands for fairness, in all shapes and forms, and that she seems committed to doing the hard work to make it happen.
Image copyright: Elph