One of the most sexist moments in British politics was certainly when Prime Minister David Cameron shouted: "Calm down dear and listen to the doctor," at Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle, as she interrupted him for misleading deputies during a debate a couple of years ago. In the best-case scenario, Cameron was unaware that this sort of language was sexist and unacceptable, but even being unaware of that is sexist enough. No matter what Cameron's excuse was, his words were sexist, patronizing and insulting. And he was not the only sexist in the room at that disgraceful moment. Quite a number of male members of British parliament laughed at the prime minister's insult, as if it were a proper joke.
From well-known female political figures such as Hillary Clinton to unpopular ones in the world, women in politics have to face sexism every day. It is not about religion, region or education. The idea that it is enough for women to get the basic right to vote and be voted for is simply imbedded in men's collective subconscious. As a matter of fact, the more women become successful, gain power and come to the forefront, the more men feel that they are tough enough to take insults. While ordinary women are expected to stay silent over daily sexism at home, on the street or at the office, female leaders are supposed to take it, ignore it and show the world how strong they are. If they cannot take it, it shows that they are not suitable for the job, according to men. Two days ago, Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu targeted sexist remarks at Sema Ramazanoğlu, the minister of family and social policies. While addressing party members in a party group meeting on Tuesday Kılıçdaroğlu said that Ramazanoğlu "kneeled down in front of someone." He was vulgar, high-handed and arrogant. At that moment he was insulting a female politician, and many party members joined him, applauding and whistling. No matter what the topic, it was one of the most sexist scenes in Turkish politics.
Unfortunately, it is not the first and it will not be the last. Bülent Arınç, a former deputy prime minister, told Nursel Aydoğan, a female Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) member of Parliament: "Madam be quiet. You, as a woman, be quiet," during a debate in Parliament last year.
Some may think that it is trivial to talk about sexist remarks in a world where one-in-three women experiences violence, but it is not, as a significant number of women are deliberately targeted for engaging in public and political life. Over the years women have been patronized, shoved aside and beaten up just because they stood up for their rights and place in public life. Too many still suffer from acts or threats of violence, harassment, contempt and belittlement. Sexist remarks targeting leading female figures in public are examples that other men copy and do the same or more against the women in their life.
Female politicians are expected to endure, or at least pretend to ignore, sexist remarks and comments about their appearance, the way they dress, their personality or their gender. Gender-based slander is not easy to contend with for women, as the discussion gets ugly when they try to defend themselves. Women's rights activists usually step in and advocate for woman who have been targeted, but it converts the debate into another discussion on feminism that makes the public forget what the problem was in the first place. Especially in Muslim countries, feminism discussions quickly change into discussions about religion. Some female activist groups only stand up for women that are targeted for their wardrobe or lifestyle and accuse Islam, while religious women become more vulnerable and easy targets. The way the men treat women is not a matter of religion, as they are pushed down, beaten up, raped or simply mistreated in secular societies as well, and yet secular feminist groups usually choose to change the focus and play the religion card. In this way, religious women cannot find enough public support. In fact, a religious woman who has been the target of a sexist offense becomes the victim of scapegoating, stereotyping and dehumanization. Sexist treatment is a common threat to all women, yet women cannot join together on such a critical matter, so the problem continues.