A Woman Makes Up Her Mind

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A horridly misguided attempt to appeal to undecided women voters by Better Together, has brought the issue of ‘Special Women’s Campaigning’ in the referendum uncomfortably to the fore.

This laughable parodying of an archetypal Scottish woman, who doesn’t know the First Minister’s name, and doesn’t want to engage in “politics chat” in the domestic realm, has provoked laughter and derision, as well as feelings of alienation and offense from women and men all across Scotland. The monologue complained about the lack of facts or answers, yet the ad contained no facts or answers, and resembled, more than anything, a very short soap opera from the ‘50s.

Despair and outrage have been accompanied by hilarity (because if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry) with all manner of humorous memes proliferating, but for me there is a more damaging element to this ad which I just can’t laugh at. One side of this campaign is actively trying to reinforce an unacceptable idea – that politics is not a woman’s concern.

Just last week, before this ad was released, I was starting to become irritated by some campaigning aimed at undecided women voters – that elusive demographic that could apparently make or break our referendum result.

Instead of wider and more diverse representation of women’s views and their reasons for voting one way or another, I saw that women were being targeted with special campaign events and specific communications – this came across to me like women were legitimate targets for being told what to think.

Nonetheless, I felt that this campaigning was a well-intentioned attempt to engage with an undecided demographic by appealing directly to them and trying to engage them in the debate. Until this advert, which just seems like a barely disguised attempt to tell the so-called archetypal undecided woman ‘It’s OK not to involve yourself in politics. That world is not for you.’

However, I have my own suspicions about the polls that have returned results showing many women yet to make up their minds on their referendum standpoint.

I happen to think that the huge swathes of reportedly undecided women have a lot to do with a culture where women are told that they don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to politics. 
I’ve seen it routinely happen in conversation, not only in regards to the referendum, dismissal of women’s views and concerns, interruption and exclusion. And whilst it’s obviously healthy to have disagreement and debate, so many women don’t feel comfortable with adversarial discussions, with disagreeing or stating their own, countering opinions.
Some say “Oh I don’t know enough about it.” or become uncomfortable with “talking politics” – and no wonder, when their contributions to the debate are treated as less equal. There are wider social issues involved, such as pressure on women to seek approval, be the guardians of polite and gracious conversation, never disagree with men (or anyone) and be liked by all. Who can blame them if they feel excluded from the debate? Or disinclined to tell anyone what they think?
I am lucky enough to be a well-educated woman, who knows the issues and is totally confident of her opinions being valid, and I have experienced dismissal, scoffing and ridicule when expressing my views. Or sometimes patronising and indulgent smiling, followed by a kind lecture on why I am wrong. I have experienced men (mostly older men it must be said) turning their backs on me to discuss with other men. I have been told, on more than one occasion, that I don’t understand the real issues at stake, and confident as I am, I have had moments of doubt where I’ve thought, almost as a knee-jerk, “Maybe I DON’T UNDERSTAND ENOUGH ABOUT THIS?”

I can only imagine what it is like for someone who doesn’t have confidence in their views.
These thoughts are based on nothing but my own perceptions, and of course it doesn’t apply to everyone. But I do suspect that there are plenty of women who may just have made up their minds, but don’t want to tell anyone, and others who will struggle to make their minds up because they have been treated like they are incapable of such important decisions.

I can’t help but wonder, if a stranger can turn round and scoff at my views, why would he draw the line at his own family members, peers or colleagues? 


And whilst I think it’s commendable that campaigns are ‘listening’ to the polls and responding by trying to engage undecided women, isn’t targeting women just a bit like saying “Women, you don’t know what to think, so let us tell you what to think.”?


I’d love to hear thoughts on this from any women and men – this is not about pointing fingers, but about a wider culture and my sincere hope that Scotland can be a place where women can feel totally comfortable expressing their views – whatever they are. 

Claire Stewart
National Collective

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There are 6 comments

  1. Stephen Brown

    I totally agree and feel that the campaigns and especially this advert clearly shows how out of touch BT are with everyone’s views and interaction in the debate, nevermind solely women’s. I know people who have been swayed the other way by this video. One thing I feel uncomfortable about that nobody has really mentioned, is that this video was clearly made by men. What does it say when these men think this is the average female voter? What was the actress thinking?! Did she read the script, does she agree with the message, does she have a brain or does she just blindly do what she is told and will do anything to try and help the unionist cause. I am astonished!

  2. Jane Barclay

    I’m fascinated by this video, it’s mind boggling on so many different levels. I’m one of the undecided, female voters but unlike the woman in ‘A Woman Makes Up Her Mind’; I’m watching the debates on television, reading articles and watching videos on the Internet as well as listening to the very polarised points of view from the many people I talk to about the Independence issue. I think it’s true that many women choose not to engage in angry debates. The assumption in this video is that a vast number of women are too stupid or too cowed by the daily grind of family life to have any kind of a critical mind. Apparently the script was taken from actual doorstep conversations: were they recording the women they interviewed? Who cherry-picked the comments for the video? The very title of the video is sexist and patronising and I too get the impression that it must have been made by men. Oh dear boys… shot yourselves in the collective foot I think. I feel sorry for the poor actress; I hope they paid her well.

  3. Sandstone Flats

    Yes, the ad was patronising to women but its message was in fact more sinister. What the ad was really saying was “If you don’t know, vote No”, thus devaluing the entire democratic process. In fact, if you don’t know you shouldn’t vote. It is in fact admirable to recognise that one has not done the appropriate research and to vote either way would be irresponsible. If you spent more time researching your last mobile phone deal, the honourable thing to do is abstain.

  4. Alastair McIver

    The ad is offensive to everyone: women, for reasons already put more eloquently than I could by many people; men, because the invisible husband is treated with “Men! Can’t live with ’em!” derision for trying to engage his wife – and even children – in conversation about the most important thing happening in Scotland right now; and young people, out of whom one, apparently, can’t get any sense because their heads are in their phones.

    Therein lies the more insidious message, though: think about it. Modern phones grant you access to the one part of the media the No Campaign doesn’t controll: social media. Young people with their “heads in their phones all the time” may be reading this comment on them, and are likely to be far better informed than BT’s fictitios everywoman. The message: STAY AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA! NOTHING TO SEE HERE! MOVE ALONG! It’s actually cleverer than we give it credit for.

  5. SkinheadCroozer

    I have to confess I honestly hadn’t given this issue much thought because I thought that we had moved on considerably as a nation from this type of misogyny; in fact, when I first saw the film, I thought it was a spoof.
    I appreciate that the world exists on a broad spectrum, but I sincerely hope that my initial analysis was not too far from wrong, and it is the broadcast which is hopelessly out of touch, out of date and inappropriate.

    Sexism may not have been eliminated; prejudice may not have been abolished (and I say that as a gay man) but, in general, I thought the national direction of travel towards respect, equality and tolerance was correct and that BT’s argument started from the wrong place, and went the wrong way.

  6. Mary Vanhelsing

    You describe the pressures that women experience to be agreeable very well. But the men who benefit from this silence and compliance are not going to change their behaviour just to be nice people. I believe that all you can do is to speak out and take the consequences, whatever they might be. The more you do that, the stronger and more confident you become. That is the only way the ‘culture’ of women not speaking their mind and keeping the peace will change. If all else fails just tell the men in question to go fuck themselves and stomp out.

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