CASE. 80 years of women's right to vote in France: why do women vote less than men ?

CASE. 80 years of women's right to vote in France: why do women vote less than men ?

60 % des abstentionnistes étaient des femmes en 2022. ILLUSTRATION UNSPLASH. – Element5 Digital

This April 21, 2024, it has been 80 years since women had the right to vote in France. Hard-won thanks to the suffragette movement, originating in Great Britain, it is one of the fundamental rights which made France proud during the post-war period. The land of Enlightenment has finally fulfilled the dream of truly universal suffrage.

We know: the share of abstentionists increases with each election in France. What is little known is that women vote less than men, whether in municipal, legislative or presidential elections. In 2022, 60% of abstainers were female. This year, women's right to vote celebrates its 80th anniversary. April 21, 1944 is a major date in the history of the Republic, essential for the political life of the country.

A few weeks before the Europeans, it has never been so important to remember that this hard-won right is the subject of major issues of representation for women. It remains to be understood why they abstain. The fact that they are more precarious and fewer in number occupying positions of responsibility could play a role. Workers generally vote less than managers.

CASE. 80 years of women's right to vote in France: why do women vote less than men ?

Women abstain more

During the last presidential election, 7 million voters were missing, compared to 5 million voters, says BVA, with West-France.

Like all rights, voting is optional. In 2022, 20% of women voted, compared to 29% of men, poses l’Insee. But the youngest are reversing the trend. Because systematic abstention is on the rise among men aged 18 to 29. On the other hand, beyond the age of 80, even though they are the direct heirs of the suffragettes, women participate less.

The question of "political consciousness" of women must be understood as a whole, notes Emmanuelle Reungoat, researcher in political science at the University of Montpellier. "It’s not just on voting day that matters. Are political representatives distanced from their social conditions ? What speaking time are women given in politics ? What places do they have in activist circles ? Who are the party leaders ?" The question would not so much be that of the politicization of women but rather that of the place that politics wants to give them.

Why women vote less?

We vote for representatives. Abstentionism among women could be explained by a lack of representativeness. If the restrictive laws on parity allow municipal, regional councils and political parties to present as many women as men, the so-called "non-binding"~60 elections ~/em> highlight disparities. Women, failing to see candidates who know their demands, understand them and defend them, would abstain from voting.

"We must highlight inspiring stories", notes the co-president of the NGO "Voted& quot;, Dorian Dreuil, "in order to encourage the desire for political engagement". While 90% of the world's countries are led by men, women are undoubtedly lacking figures who embody the issues they face and who fight for their interests. "Women do not feel represented in politics, they do not feel concerned", supports Geneviève Tapié.

How to teach the history of such a recent law ?

Professor of history-geography and EMC in Occitanie (Moral and civic education), Laura Fini explains to us that the political consciousness of students varies greatly depending on their age. Whether middle school or high school students, "some are aware of the inequalities between men and women, and especially that there are some always had".

The history of our democracy

For the teacher, these courses which address women's right to vote, through the history of universal suffrage and democracy, are an opportunity to learn more about women's right to vote. open dialogue on the elections. "For fourth grade students, for example, this right seems acquired, even if they see that the story alternates between moving forward and backward".

Become a citizen

Among young people, social equality matters. Many of them are fighting against sexist discrimination. For the professor, these courses are also an opportunity to teach young people to think for themselves, so that, by extension, they can trust each other at the ballot box. "For many, their political beliefs come from family tradition. We sometimes have to discuss to prevent them from plunging into extremism. Others are very detached, uncertain…hellip; I have students who tell me: 'I'm 18 years old, and I don't know if I'm right or left".

Furthermore, abstentionism is linked to the socio-economic context of voters. However, women are slightly more precarious than men, and less available because they are often responsible for taking care of children. Thus, notes Dorian Dreuil, when an election Sunday arrives, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. sharp, it is sometimes more difficult for them to go to the polls. Organize elections over several days, remotely, early… would make it possible to fight against abstentionism among women, but undoubtedly also in general.

Not to mention the "mis-registration" on the electoral rolls, which keeps voters away from the polling stations. "If you are a single mother whose polling station is 20 kilometers from home, the cost of voting is higher". Women in more precarious jobs, and who therefore have fewer resources than men, suffer more from electoral hazards. "The right to vote is like all rights. When we do not promote its access, it is little used".

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