Cail­leach

It might be the 21st cen­tury but it's still a man's world

The Oban Times - - LEISURE - bo­dach@oban­times.co.uk

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.

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