Do You Find This Female Voter Advert Patronising?

With the 2018 local elections on the horizon, the electoral commission has launched a new campaign encouraging voters to step into booths. And while there’s no problem with inspiring people to vote – it’s necessary, and they need the exposure – the ads are kind of sexist.
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In the four short videos, a female voice asks: “Got five? That’s all it takes to register to vote in the local elections.” Which is all fine – we can handle that. But the real issue is with each of the scenarios that feature alongside the voiceover – a cup of tea in the making with a set of pink car keys on the side; a washing machine filled with clothes; a running bubble bath. And, of course, the worst one: a woman getting a pink pedicure, on a pink carpet, with pink toe separators.

Sure, it’s not terrible – it’s certainly not the worst thing to happen to female voters. But it just reeks of female typecasting. A set of campaign ads reducing women to a very outdated stereotype in order to engage them in local politics certainly isn’t the most effective way to get their votes. It’s 2018, and women have proved time and time again they’re far more than just their household chores and beauty regimes. They’re more than just the colour pink. We should be past this.

The 2017 General Election saw a higher female turnout than men, and for years women have made up around 52% of the British electorate so, yes, it’s important to listen to what they have to say. But politicians seem obsessed with ‘the women’s vote’, which is patronising – after all, there’s no talk of ‘the men’s vote’. And do women really vote that differently to men? It seems not. “Broadly speaking it’s pretty much the same for men and women,” Anthony Wells of global research firm YouGov told the Telegraph in 2013. “Economy, health and immigration are the top topics for both men and women.”

Politics has a long and fraught relationship with female voters. Take the infamous anti-Scottish independence advert of 2014, entitled The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind, which took misguided aim at the ‘undecided woman’ demographic and sparked a myriad of memes. In it, an undecided Scottish woman complains about there “not [being] enough hours in the day” to make a decision and bemoaning the fact her husband continued to talk about the debate despite her struggling to keep up. It essentially saw the woman concerned about housework while the man discussed politics.

Then there was the infamous pink Labour bus of 2015. For three months, some of the UK’s most brilliant female minds travelled the country to connect with women voters in a mini bus that looked like it had Barbie behind the steering wheel. When asked about the colour by the Telegraph’s Sophy Ridge, Labour MPs behind the bus skirted around the P word; Harriet Harman labelled it “magenta”, while Gloria de Piero went with “cerise”.

Governments’ consistent use of the colour pink to represent women essentially paints us all with the same brush. Think about it: you rarely see content aimed at men that’s solely blue. As Ridge says: “The bright pink bus – a colour that has the underlying message that women all love pink – gives the impression that women are a niche group of homogenous people who care about the same things.”
In reality, we all have different interests and different goals when it comes to our political choices. Women are entrepreneurs, mothers, doctors, creatives, homeowners, renters. We are so many things, and we want so many things. Women are already so underrepresented in politics, so let’s ditch the sweeping generalisation. Politicians need to stop trying to guess what women want and just ensure their voices are heard.

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