With just over a month to go until the General Election, Girlguiding is calling on the media to stop commenting on the way politicians look. This call comes as part a charter which also asks the media to ensure young women’s voices are represented in political coverage, and that the diversity of young women’s voices are recognised.
As this election will have a massive impact on important issues like Britain’s future with the EU, it’s more important than ever the media change how they present politicians.Ever since I was old enough to start understanding politics, I’ve felt that becoming a politician was one of the ways I could get my voice heard and make a difference.But as I grew older, I realised I hardly ever saw the media show female politicians and, when they did, there was always some kind of comment about their makeup, clothing, or hair.
The day after the televised debates for the General Election in 2015, I opened the newspaper to find an article discussing how Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood needed a make-over – because apparently her hair and clothes were considered old fashioned. I couldn’t get over the fact the article had completely dismissed the policies she’d discussed the night before in favour of something so superficial.
At this moment, I realised the chances of me being taken seriously as a female politician were slim. Even if I managed to break the glass ceiling surrounding politics, I would most likely have my views trivialised or ignored by the media.However, I didn’t give up on having my voice heard. I constantly reminded the people around me about the importance of voting and being actively interested and involved in politics.
After the Brexit vote, where young people voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, I was reminded of the power of our voices. I was reminded that we have the power to decide our futures by voting for the politicians who we believe best represent us.
In the weeks leading up to the General Election, I want the media to stop portraying women’s looks as the most important thing about them. It seems to me that the media forget these politicians have immense power over our country’s future. We deserve to know what they stand for and what we’re voting for.If the media change the way they report about female politicians, they can avoid disappointing young women like me, who want to have their voices heard but can’t see themselves represented anywhere. The media have the power to inspire a whole generation of new politicians through factual, truthful, and diverse reporting. This needs to be easy to understand, but not patronising.
I hope that through Girlguiding’s charter, the media will start paying attention to how they portray politicians and begin to take responsibility. Young women are political, and if they see all politicians being taken seriously by the media, they will know their voices are being heard and feel inspired for the future. On that note, I want to ask all young women to make sure they’re registered to vote on 8th June. Sometimes it may feel like no one is listening to you, and that your vote is just a drop in the ocean, but I can assure you people are listening and your vote matters.