Siobhain McDonagh

Siobhain McDonagh chats women in politics 50 years since miniskirts were banned in parliament

Exactly 50 years ago today – on December 2, 1966 – the miniskirt was banned in parliament.  

A symbol of the ‘swinging sixties’ – the miniskirt represented a new wave of female empowerment and signified the new role of fashion in feminism.

As we woke this morning to learn that the Liberal Democrats had secured their first female MP, Sarah Olney for Richmond Park, we are reminded of just how far women in politics have come over the last 100 years – skirts and all.

While yesterday marked the 97th anniversary of the first female MP, Nancy Astor, to take a seat in parliament, this week is a poignant time for reflection on the role of women in politics.

Immeasurable progress has been made in the last 100years alone, but there is still a long way to go.

Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh said: “It is hard for women, everybody always wants a woman in principle, just not the one that’s standing.”

In 1966, when the ban was enforced, there were only 26 female MPs in parliament.

The miniskirt had taken London by storm, being worn by young women in Chelsea as a form of rebellion against the oppressive, ankle-covering fashion of the early 20th century.

A post-war outlook and the availability of the contraceptive pill in 1961 saw women expressing their femininity in more ways than ever before.

But while parliament looks entirely different 50 years on, the ban of the miniskirt represented how there was no place for such expression in politics.

As 2016 draws to a close, we can celebrate not only the election of our second female prime minister, but also a revolutionary outlook on women in politics since Astor’s election 97 years ago.

Ms McDonagh said: “I have a huge support group in my fellow female MPs, while men only seem to have that camaraderie when they go to the pub.”

Regardless of personal opinion on Ms Olney’s win this morning, we can look to the future of politics with an optimism regarding gender equality that just fifty years ago was still in dire need of progression.

While it’s unlikely Theresa May will be stepping out in a miniskirt any time soon, it’s good to know that as prime minister, that decision is hers to make.

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