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”
UM IS THAT BECAUSE YOU ALREADY ARE???
>>>“ 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.