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World News | From Queen Elizabeth to Sanna Marin, young women in politics always face prejudice

World News | From Queen Elizabeth to Sanna Marin, young women in politics always face prejudice

LONDON, Dec. 27 (Dialogue) It is standard practice in international politics for the two prime ministers to meet to discuss the relationship between the two countries. But New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and Finland’s Sanna Marin had to defend the latest summit after being asked by reporters if they met because they were both young women leader.

As prime ministers, Ardern and Marin did break down political barriers. But the bias displayed by this question has a long history. Young women have always faced doubts about their experience and ability to rule.

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So did the late Queen Elizabeth II. Questioning 15 prime ministers a week in private meetings for 70 years certainly gave her insight into the challenges facing government. But according to historian Kate Williams, when she first took the throne, Winston Churchill thought she was “just a child” and inexperienced for the role. We have to wonder if he would say that about a 25-year-old king.

British society has a complex relationship with age. Older people are seen as wise and experienced, but also isolated and in decline, both physically and mentally. Young people are seen as creative but unreliable, even reckless.

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Of course, these are just generalizations. But they still have implications for workplaces and political institutions, making it easier for older people to become experts. This is partly because the British Parliament is still dominated by older people.

This is certainly true in the House of Lords, which reserves 92 seats for hereditary peers. Hereditary political office is extremely risky and certainly unfair. They offer privileges to very few families, especially the older generation, because you are only eligible if someone your previous age (usually your parents) died.

The rest of the nobles are appointed after their careers, so the age of the House of Lords is already high. But as more and more people marry and die later, it’s skewed even further — this year, the average age was 71.

The House of Commons is a bit younger – the average age of MPs in 2019 was 51. Over the past 50 years we have seen the number of MPs aged 60-69 increase to 105. Although 18-29 MPs have also risen, they still only have 21 MPs.

young women in british parliament

The few young men in the House of Commons are patronized, especially women. Both unthinking inattention and active hostility can perpetuate prejudice.

Over the decades, members of Congress and people of color (especially women) have repeatedly reported to me in interviews that security officials and even other politicians thought they were staff or visitors. If you already struggle with imposter syndrome like so many politicians, imagine how distasteful it is when people think you’re unconsciously out of place.

Young women in politics are also often the target of horrific online abuse.

During a debate asking the house to consider misogyny a hate crime in 2018, Mhairi Black, the youngest ever MP at 20, explained: “There’s no softening of abusiveness, which is something I’ve always Sexuality and misogynism since … reassuring me many times that I don’t have to worry because I’m too ugly and no one wants to rape me. All these insults are tailor-made for me because I’m a woman.”

Even when the abuse is condescending and not violent, it can wreak havoc. Just months before the meeting with Ardern, Finland’s leader Marin – one of the world’s youngest heads of state at 37 – was criticized for a video showing her dancing and singing at night out.

The international backlash and political pressure led to Marin being tested for drugs (which came back negative). Still, her demeanor evokes youthful levity—not least because she’s a good dancer, not a clumsy one.

All politicians are vulnerable to opponents who leak damaging material, but the specificity of that criticism depends largely on her being a young woman. Presumably, it was designed to cater to the often playful, non-serious bias of young women. Politics is serious and is still seen as the preserve of men in most of the world.

prejudice in parliament

Sociologist Nirmal Puwar has pointed out that women — especially young minority and working-class women — are seen as invaders into political spaces that have been occupied by white men for centuries.

Social inequalities around age and gender are often magnified in places such as parliaments, where representatives engage in bitter power struggles. Biases based on these issues are used by politicians (and their supporters) as weapons of mutual patronage, blame and exclusion.

But the opposite of prejudice — a common, shared experience — can be an antidote. In solidarity with Marin, women in Finland and Denmark uploaded videos of themselves dancing, a fight against misogyny and ageism that did no one any harm.

At a time when older people are increasingly struggling to keep up with the digital world and lack a sense of urgency about climate change (whose effects barely affect them), they may need to make way in politics for more young people, whether we like it or not. We just have to figure out a way to make these young politicians more accessible to the public eye. (dialogue)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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