What is a women’s issue?

1 May 2010

Last night’s ten o’clock news discussed how the votes of women might be decisive in the election in ten days’ time. You might have thought that this was an obvious point, given that woman make up half of the electorate. But the reporter made the point that woman tend to make their minds up later in the election campaign and that, in this tightest of races, the as yet undecided female voter becomes increasingly important.

It is good to be suspicious when anyone claims that women are inherently different to men and will always behave differently. Despite popular assumptions the research shows huge overlaps between female and male psychology and behaviour. But the striking aspect of this report was the selection of issues the reporter went on to discuss as those likely to capture the female vote. And I wonder if you can guess what they were? Yes – they were childcare, child tax credits, and all things about motherhood. Although there was a brief mention of how few women actually get to be members of parliament, this was not enough to hide the basic assumption that families and parenting is a women’s issue.

I’m sure many women are interested in how the next government will support or not support parenting and families but I suspect that they might also be interested in how we are going to avoid having a budget hole the size of Greece and a runaway warming of the planet. And what about those men who would be really interested to hear more about family policy? Is it really true that arguments about the rate of national insurance are more intesting to them than discussions what is good for their children?

I’m hoping that politicians have a better understanding of how offering support to families will attract votes from men *and* women.