A Tuesday Afternoon Rant

So this is the second day I’ve taken my finest feminist troll food out the cupboard and wandered over to the Tory enclosure. My first outing wasn’t too bad, my second however, not so fun, and I got so ranty that I forgot to cut out the beginning bit which I was responding to so it looks like I’m agreeing in an odd echo-y way in the comment section of this blog post.

What I really mean to say:

>>>“Government is not and must not simply reflect society. To even suggest that it should is simply moronic.”

I’m sorry, I don’t know if you’ve seen, I think your moron is showing.

>>>“I don’t need representating [sic] because of my gender, sexuality, ethinicity [sic], or anything else like that”


>>>“ Whether they’re male or female, straight or gay, whatever the color of their skin doesn’t matter. It’s entirely immaterial.”

If it is, then why are you complaining?

This is an argument we hear again and again. ‘oh but equal representation should never come at the expense of ability’. Ability, ability, fuck ability. More accurately: fuck your definition of ability which assumes it is in opposition to better representation of women (and BME) in positions of power.

I do think the way Harman’s language has been portrayed (READ: taken out of context) presents an unhelpful argument, both men and women are entirely capable of running things on their own, the point is that a government that seeks to represent a people should be representative of those people. Why? Because a government can and should not make decisions for an electorate that it does not understand. That does mean roughly 52% women, that does mean BME men and women. Of course in an ideal world you cannot and should not have to manufacture that balance – in a true meritocracy it would not be necessary. But the fact is that even if men are judged solely on their merit – women most certainly aren’t. Women who are just as worthy, intelligent, hard working and talented as men are throughout their careers not taken as seriously, in their ability, their commitment.

Jaqcui Smith’s first major speech on terrorism as Home Secretary was covered not as it should have been – as an attack on civil liberties to ward off one of the least of the dangers of our modern world – but rather on the cut of her top and the size of her tits. While these attitudes exist women will continue to be taken less seriously than men, and as thus you cannot say that women will be judged fairly on their ‘ability’ next to men.

It’s not elitist to say “I want to best people for the job to do the job”. But it is FUCKING SEXIST to assume that this precludes the equal involvement of women in government. It is a patriarchal society’s judgment of ‘ability’ which has heretofore been applied. A world where no matter what sense comes out of a woman’s mouth it is her looks, the cut of her clothes, and the man she stands next to which counts. This world where women are taken less seriously impairs them at every step – in education, in employment, in promotion, in experience. You cannot judge ability truly in an unequal context.
This is not a simple problem, and to tackle it once and for all there would need to be a massive societal sea change in how women are seen in the public and private eye. How likely is that? If it is achievable it will take years, it involves tackling the UK’s approach to family care, to female power, to objectification, and an address to the media, it needs a grassroots approach that encourages people to see that politics is real, alive, and relevant, not just the dour (largely male) faces they see droning on their television screens. It means a redefinition of core values, such as how we (as a society) fetishise ‘family’ (see this rant) It means that young boys and girls are taught that there is no such thing as a ‘boy’ toy or a ‘girl’ toy, that boys can cry and girls can play with cars. That boys can read books and girls can build mechano sets. Let’s say that happens, and let’s say, realistically speaking, that it takes about 3 lifetimes. roughly 225 years. (According to the 2008 Sex and Power EHRC report “A snail could crawl the entire length of the Great Wall of China in 212 years, just slightly longer than the 200 years it will take for women to be equally represented in Parliament.” – SOURCE) That is what we need to do before we can even begin to talk about ability. And how is that even to come about if there aren’t women in positions of power – who really understand the problems and barriers involved- working to make it happen?

I think all female and BME shortlists are necessary. I think that we need to use every means possible to get women and BME people into parliament. And I would argue that in any situation. YES EVEN IF WE LIVED IN A FUCKING MATRIARCHY AND WOMEN RAN THE WORLD.

One of the problems of privilege- of any kind, male, white, class – is that the nature of privilege means that it is something that is natural to you, it’s hard to understand and see that others are not. All female (or all BME) shortlists are not a perfect solution, but I fail to see how else we work for the better good. We live in an imperfect world, where often the choice has to be the ‘least bad’ for all involved. I think that getting more BME and women into parliament requires several different approaches, but I do think that all-female shortlists are one of them. They were all male by law up until 1945, it’s time we redressed the balance. Sooner rather than later.

PennyRed puts it really well  here:

“You may feel powerless, but equality agitators aren’t the reason for your lack of power. We aren’t the problem here. We took nothing from you – well, actually, we took one thing, and one thing only, and we’re still in the process of taking it: the right of people who are white, or male, or rich, or straight, in any combination, to gain preferment over and to expect to enjoy a better and safer life than people who are not. And yes, the fact that we stepped up and demanded that right back slightly decreases the average white man’s chance at a top job, decreases the average white man’s automatic right to status and power and respect, if suddenly he is competing against not only his own race, class and gender but all the others as well in a capitalist world where status and respect are finite. In short, we’ve taken nothing you actually needed.

Now, you may think that you NEEDED those things, those free passes to the top, that unspoken advantage over women and minorities, to get the good things in life. But trust me, you didn’t. I have met a great deal of white men and loved some of them very deeply: white men have the same potential as everyone else to prove themselves without the advantage of unfair selection which currently – still! – is weighted in their favour in almost every sector of work and citizenship. Trust me. You don’t NEED your privilege. Not half as much as we all need a fairer world.

Reducing unfair advantage is not the same as prejudice. Just because something inconveniences you doesn’t mean it’s about you.”
I urge you to read the rest of that piece, which puts my point far more eloquently.

Finally, if you want teh proofs: recent research by the Anita Borg Institute has found a correlation between the presence of women in higher management and financial performance of the organization, as measured to total return to shareholders and return on equity (ABIWT, 2009) Likewise “social scientists have long posited that groups that are too homogeneous were likely to suffer from “group think” and make worse decisions.” (ABIWT, 2007) DIVERSITY DIRECTLY BENEFITS A WORK ENVIRONMENT.

I think if we didn’t have a lazy right wing media that practically breathes male-privilege (IE, if the media actually addressed men as well as women, there wouldn’t be a need for the pathetic ‘women’s sections’) making a big deal about this whole ‘politically correct’ non-story they could be seen for what they are – an honest, though less-than-perfect attempt to redress imbalance. (by-the-by I think the media characterises shifts away from prejudice as ‘PC’ because they’re reminiscing about the days when they sold papers and when the Tory Party ran slogans like ‘if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour’ (1964))

I’m not asking you to apologise for your gender, nor for the privilege into which you were lucky to be born. But you should recognise that things are not OK and that while removing privilege can make people feel disadvantaged, it isn’t disadvantage, it’s the removal of unfair advantage, and it is necessary.

Posted via email from hannahnicklin’s posterous

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5 Responses to “A Tuesday Afternoon Rant”

  1. Chris August 4, 2009 at 7:11 pm #

    >>”If it is, then why are you complaining?”

    I think you’re just showing your complete and utter misunderstanding. My point is that neither women or men should get a position in power based only on their gender.

    >>”It’s not elitist to say “I want to best people for the job to do the job”. But it is FUCKING SEXIST to assume that this precludes the equal involvement of women in government.”

    Again, your lack of understanding is showing. It doesn’t preclude ‘equal representation’ of women in government, it doesn’t preclude women filling ALL major positions in government if they’re the right people to do it.

    >>”I think all female and BME shortlists are necessary. I think that we need to use every means possible to get women and BME people into parliament.”

    Then you’re an idiot. If the absolute stupidity of that statement is not obvious to you, then you must have the IQ of a pumpkin. Putting people into positions *only* because of their gender or race will, in the short term, increase the number of female/BME people “at the top” but in the long term destroy equality and create vested interests. Women/BME people who make it to the top will be seen as having done so *because* of that aspect, not because of their own abilities.

    >>”I’m not asking you to apologise for your gender, nor for the privilege into which you were lucky to be born. But you should recognise that things are not OK and that while removing privilege can make people feel disadvantaged, it isn’t disadvantage, it’s the removal of unfair advantage, and it is necessary.”

    Removing ‘privilege’ by creating other privileges? Yeah, you’ve thought that one through.

  2. Hannah Nicklin August 4, 2009 at 7:32 pm #

    OK, number one, you are *not* allowed to call me an idiot for expressing a reasoned view.

    Number two, to clarify: we need to use every means possible to get women, BME and non hetronormative people EQUAL REPRESENTATION in parliament.

    You point may be that “neither women or men should get a position in power based only on their gender.” my point is that men demonstrably do, and that needs to be rectified.

    Nor am I arguing for putting people in power solely because of their gender/race/sexuality/other – what do you think all female short lists do, go down to the local pub and pick 4 women at random? My argument asked not just for ‘top level’ change, but also grass roots work that changes the dynamic of both society and politics in order to make it equally accessible and relevant. Along with all female short listing and other drastic action to drive that change. That is not idiocy, sir, it is action.

    If you’d care to re-read the final statement it answers your somewhat confusing dismissal. To reiterate: this is NOT removing privilege by creating privilege, IE more disadvantage, IT IS THE REMOVAL OF UNFAIR ADVANTAGE. Equality, nothing more, nothing less.

  3. Chris August 4, 2009 at 8:19 pm #

    Number one, it’s not a reasoned view. It’s pure idiocy.

    Number two, discrimination is not an appropriate means to achieve equal representation in parliament.

    Men don’t get positions based only on their gender – but I’m not arguing that it doesn’t help though or that it doesn’t need to be rectified. BUT two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Gender should NOT make any difference to selection, and all your discriminatory selection process proposal does is formalise an already unfair process and extend its reach.

    Rather than acting in a petulant manner “it’s not faaaaaaaaaaaair” manner, grow up and deal with it like an adult. Does your gender affect your abilities? No. Make people believe it by showing them.

    I’m sorry, but you’re about as wrong as it is possible to be. Replacing an informal ‘privilege’ with a statutory one is not bringing about equality, it’s creating it.

  4. Hannah Nicklin August 4, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    OK this is the final time I’m going to engage with you, I have a 3-strikes troll policy, you’re simply not listening to me and you continue to dismiss someone who simply disagrees with you as an ‘idiot’ despite the fact that I have explicated both the motivations and proofs behind what I believe and in several different ways.

    Men do, let me repeat this ABSOLUTELY DO get preferential treatment because of their gender. This is what patriarchy IS. And if you’re not willing to listen to me on that, try the UN: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/un-says-sexual-discrimination-is-rife-in-britain-915800.html

    Female or BME or other exclusive shortlists are, as I have said, not a perfect, or the only solution to the massive problems with representation within the UK parliamentary system. But they are a viable option in the fast-tracking of change which is direly needed. The fact is that the system already discriminates in favour of men, now obviously if we could flick a switch and change the system then I’d glady go with that, but it is so ingrained in the institutions and mindsets of this country that we need other ways to fast-track a level playing field. All women short lists are characterised as somehow full of less-able people. This is simply not true.

    You started by arguing that women shouldn’t be represented equally in parliament – that it is ability that should come first, that women need to prove themselves worthy. But this is simply not possible in a system that devalues and degrades the female voice, of course exceptional people break through, but there are an awful lot of not-very-exceptional men out there representing us in all positions of power, who are there because of the connections available and assumptions that are made of you if you are male.

    Gender shouldn’t make a difference to selection. But it already does. In a society which characterises strength and leadership as male qualities, and women with these qualities as shrill and pushy, the only way to bring about real change is to put just as capable women into positions of power, to break the pattern, and to provide that ‘proof’ you so desire.

    To patronise me with a ‘whiny child’ caricature, when what I have written uses (for the most part) reasonable language and a credible line of argument is not OK– angry it may be, but you try fighting this shit every day and not getting angry.

    To suggest that I do not spend *every single day* trying to prove myself in every field that I attempt to excel in is out of order. My whole life is spent having to prove that I can handle myself, that I have a brain, that I’m good with tech, or that I’m politically engaged, or can hold an argument. And the point is that I shouldn’t have to do that, I should be accepted as an intelligent and reasonable human being until proven otherwise, like most white, middle class men are.

    Let me iterate this a final time: to remove the white middle class male privilege of horrible over-representation in the political (or other) system, by allowing women to play an equal part in our political process is not inequality, it is selecting in favour of the opposite. Of course it’s discriminating against discrimination, that’s kind of what a positive action is – counter-acting a negative one.

    I wish you well, and hope you are at least willing to listen. Any more attempts to patronise me, call me stupid or an idiot, will not be responded to.

  5. Chris August 4, 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    I am more than willing to listen, and I understand your reasons – I just think you completely misunderstand the effects your idea would have. Having shortlists that are ONLY open to people of a specific group will in the short term increase their representation. But it will in the long term damage the principle of equality – it will become something that is formalised and legislated, not natural.

    You are mischaracterising me when you suggest that I think “women shouldn’t be represented equally in parliament – that it is ability that should come first, that women need to prove themselves worthy”. WOMEN don’t need to prove themselves worthy in the slightest – INDIVIDUALS do. Regardless of gender. There’s a lot of not-very-exceptional men and a lot of not-very-exceptional women out there in positions of power – Harman herself being a prime example.

    I don’t believe that, in the modern world, gender makes much difference. There are a few dinosuars out there, but they are dying off. And now it is your very argument that is causing you to have to fight against “shit” every day, because you’re implying to those dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures that you DON@t believe you’re equal because you want separate shortlists. By doing that, you’re giving the Daily Hatemail ammo.

    You, quite rightly, want equality NOW. But equality like that can’t be got NOW – it takes a little while. In a decade, no-one will bat an eyelid if a women becomes PM or a senior Cabinet minister. They won’t pay any more attention to her neckline or the length of her skirt than they do to a man’s tie or suit. But it won’t happen overnight, and by forcing the issue through the introduction of COMPULSORY “equality”, you conversely push REAL equality further away.

    I am no troll – after all, you commented on my post first! – and I am more than willing to listen and re-evaluate my opinions. But you need to be willing to do so as well.

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