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Do women vote less than men?

On the occasion of the European elections, let's reflect on female abstentionism and what is at stake

Do women vote less than men? On the occasion of the European elections, let's reflect on female abstentionism and what is at stake

On June 8th and 9th, 2024, Italy will hold elections to elect the new European Parliament. It's not news that in our country, voter absentionism has reached extremely high levels in recent years (consider that in the parliamentary elections of 2022, only 63.8% of the eligible population voted), but an evident discrepancy emerges when it comes to gender. Assuming that gender is much more nuanced than that, if we decide to think in binary terms for convenience, we notice how the gap regarding female voter turnout in our country has progressively diminished. Let's ask ourselves: do women vote less than men? Will they vote in the European Elections? What's at stake from a social and political perspective?

The Right to Vote for Women in Italy: The Beginnings

Granted the right to vote in 1945, initially, women participated in voting in greater numbers than men. This was the case until the mid-1960s. Mostly uneducated and subservient to their husbands, the main reasons they were pushed to the polls were the indication of their spouses and the Catholic Church. Moreover, being a novelty, the female electorate was enthusiastic about seeing the right to vote recognized for the first time. Things didn't stay that way forever, quite the contrary. With women entering the workforce, there was a trend reversal: finding themselves within the social, cultural, and political life of the country, they progressively moved away from that religious sentiment that prompted them to vote, along with the spread of a general apathy. However, women's distancing from the polls is not only due to increasing fatigue but also to the orientation towards new forms of female emancipation and feminisms that do not find echoes in the main proposed parties. The non-vote thus becomes a way to make their voices heard, a protest movement, often carried out by those who want to practice a new form of politics, as a criticism of the present male-dominated society. 

Voter Turnout in Recent Times

However, after the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a further change of course. Feminisms and initially considered more radical forms of activism found space in the new world of social media and mass culture, entering a more institutionalized and mainstream flow that promotes possible convergences on sensitive issues between feminism and politics. Considering that the European elections always represent a moment when abstentionism is manifested to a greater extent (they are perceived as less engaging and distant from the majority), the mobilization that has been gaining ground in recent months, to counter the extreme right forces that would like to crush those fundamental rights of women, is unstoppable.

What's at Stake in the European Elections?

Themes such as the right to abortion, maternity, and harassment and discrimination in the workplace have become central in the clash between mentalities and factions dividing Europe. Voting in these elections is no longer a purely political issue but a social one. It's not about preference but ideals: women's votes are a vote for rights, those rights that in 2024 for the male gender are taken for granted but for which women still have to fight. Even today in our country, women are underrepresented in most top positions in all work areas and even in TV debates discussing political issues that concern them.

The Italian and European Parliament and the power of vote

Despite there being two female leaders in the European Parliament and the Italian Parliament at the moment, what remains around is disheartening. The parliamentary elections of the year 2022 highlighted that voting for a female candidate does not necessarily mean supporting the rights of marginalized communities. Therefore, it is very important to inform yourself about the electoral programs and express a preference for the candidates and the list that seems most aligned with our vision of freedom. Politics is no longer and should no longer be a luxury for a few people but become a tool of emancipation to be used when necessary through a right we have painstakingly conquered. Politics, whether we like it or not, changes the fate of the world we know and our lives, and we must accept it and use it to our advantage.