Sunday, March 02, 2008

equal representation, not sexual division

David Cameron has pledged to give a third of jobs in his first government to women. Positive discrimination has never been particularly popular. It's sometimes been deemed anti-, not pro-, equality. The Tory MP for Shipley, said: 'If you believe in true equality, which I do, then it should be irrelevant what somebody's gender should be'.

Yes, indeed, it should be irrelevant what somebody's gender is... But if gender is an irrelevant factor of employment, why then are there so few women in parliament?? (I read somewhere last year that there are more people called David in the Tory Party than women!) Clearly gender is not irrelevant.

There is this hysteria surrounding positive discrimination that always follows this argument: positive discrimination will result in people gaining positions they are not qualified for; while those more qualified miss out. It is just another demonstration of prejudice to assume that any women applying for parliamentary places are less qualified than their male contemporaries and less deserving of the post. The point of raising the issue of unbalanced gender representation in parliament and other areas of politics is to expose how discrimination has prevented equally qualified women from gaining the same recognition and prestige as men. They have missed out not because they are less qualified, but because they are women. Cameron is intending to try to counter this by employing them because they are women.

But some of his logic is worrying: he wants more female politicians so that they can 'influence decisions affecting women's lives', devising policies 'that matter to female voters.' Women do not necessarily support female politicians, and to hand over policies deemed as 'women's issues' to women parliamentarians could effectively exclude them from authority on other subjects. If male politicians are dis-involved in so-called 'women's issues', then female politicians may be dis-involved from non-women's-issues.

Separating politics in this way can orchestrate the separation of society into male and female: women have their 'women's issues' which are dealt with by female politicians. Men have their issues dealt with by male politicians. I will not be haremised in this way. Of course there must be equal representation of men and women in parliament (if there has to be a government at all, which is perhaps the real question), but not so as they can preside over a divided society. They must co-operate equally, so that we can be a society of humans, and not forever, dis-unitedly , gendered.

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exoteric said...

I find it interesting that this issue arises at all, given that women account for roughly 50% of the population. Is it due to the voting public, in general, voting against female candidates when they are contesting a seat? Or is it that they are not winning selection within their parties to contest a seat? Or are there just not that many women with a keen enough interest in politics and the desire to run?

Some people refer to politics as a boys club, and to be honest, the way the media reports on the antics of male politicians, I can understand that sentiment. Is it the behind the scenes. party room and question time behaviour of male politicians that is responsible?

I don't know.

jennifletzet said...

I think ALL of the factors you've mentioned are the reasons why there is such a gender imbalance in parliament. The ingrained patriarchy of government is the first barrier in the way, but this - as it has in the cases of business and education - can change - it just seems to be taking a lot longer than in other areas of life. The patriarchal traditions you mention are definitely off-putting: there is not enough to entice women into government, and then there is not enough to hold them in once they're there.

It is unfortunately the case that women voters will mostly vote for men. It is part of the same ingrained aspect to patriarchal societies - whether it be consciously or unconsciously, women (and men) have been bred to believe that only men can lead and rule. There are some very welcome signs of change - Hilary Clinton's advances in the States for example... among others, such as Sweden's 50/50 government and Spain's predominantly female parliament. Perhaps the UK will get there eventually...