It might be the 21st century but it's still a man's world
AS I AM flicking through The Oban
Times catalogue of photographs, I'm struck by something very stark. There is a complete lack of women who have been involved in politics at a local level.
Or to be very clear, there are few and far between photographs of women who have been involved in politics in Argyll and Bute.
Which leads me to the assumption that we are either a) not taking photographs of women or b) women were never taken seriously enough to be in a photograph.
As it stands in 2016: in Westminster we have no female politicians from this area, in Edinburgh we have a few women but, again, it is mainly men, while at a local level on Argyll and Bute Council there are eight women politicians, one of whom has children in school.
Mind you, I can't think of many men in Kilmory with school-age children either.
Over a number of years, and many experiences, it seems to me that politics works by popularity rather than cleverness.
Sometimes, it is isn’t what is being said but who was saying it.
I mean, in my experience, what would a non-Argyll woman half the age of many of her colleagues have to say that would be of any importance? This picture rarely changes. As I flick through the photos from our archive, the sight of a woman is rare in most areas of life. Recently the newspaper even had a complaint about sport coverage in the newspaper missing out women.
The lack of women … what is it? What is it about the systems that exist that don’t allow women to engage fully in politics?
Is it being too busy? Or too tied up? Or less empowered? Less angry? A lack of self-belief?
I come across a picture from the 1950s and I remember a fact heard at a book festival held in Carradale, Kintyre.
In the 1930s, one of Argyll’s finest female writers, Naomi Mitchison, was involved in politics.
A small bit of research and I discover Naomi was the Labour representative on Argyll County Council from the 1940s to the mid-1960s.
In 1949, another erstwhile Argyll resident, George Orwell, produced a list of writers who could produce propaganda for the post-war Labour government.
Naomi’s name was on that list as it was felt she was a person who was left-leaning enough to write for the government’s propaganda unit, the Information Research Department.
High praise indeed for a mere Argyll woman. She didn’t receive the same praise inside the local authority – in fact in some of her writings she leans toward the fact that she is almost ignored in the council.
Her activism and her somewhat ‘modrin’ views on women’s rights and birth control were often out of step with what other people were thinking around her at a local level – but not at a national and international level.
It is likely that she achieved more through her writing to change the status of women, the way of rural and island life (three things close to her heart) than she ever did through her three decades in the local authority.
So, faced with a political climate where the number of women in politics is yet again falling instead of rising, do we need to secure a way of dong things differently?
To top it all, we have a president-elect who is on record objectifying women, while we yet again have a strong ‘iron’ woman at the helm of HMS United Kingdom.
The problem is that if men continue to be the major decision-makers for our lives, as well as their own, then nothing in the establishment or order will change. Or will it?
In this series, The Oban Times’ resident Cailleach (Gaelic: old woman and, by experience, often a storyteller) looks through archive material for articles and pictures that preserve moments from the past. There is always a back story – and sometimes a future one.