New feature – The case against all-women shortlists: the alternative route to participatory democracy…

All-women shortlists are not ambitious enough to deliver the radical change our political system needs, argues Jane Watkinson

The use of all-women shortlists to select candidates for political office enjoys the support of many feminists, women and political parties: however, I have several reservations regarding their relative usefulness for increasing female political participation.

Of course, I want more women involved in politics as much as the pro all-women shortlist campaigners. The relatively poor level of women’s representation is disconcerting, with women making up only one in five MPs, for example. However, pretending all-women shortlists is the answer ignores the power relations women need to radically challenge.

All-women shortlists can undermine movements towards a radical reconstructing of the underlying power relations, which are a primary cause of unequal democratic participation. They are artificial, faux democratic protocols, which create illusions of change.

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