Sisters: Gender is not the real issue

Off the fence

Sisters: Gender is not the real issue


Áine Ryan

GENDER quotas. For almost a month now the debate has raged in The Irish Times as to whether political parties should be required to adopt gender quotas in their candidate selection process. 
Well, it is the silly season and paper doesn’t refuse ink, even if it has a whiff of Chanel off it. Interestingly though, the majority of the 23 women Dáil deputies said ‘no’ to the proposal (14: No; 8: yes).
I agree. As one of the many letter writers to the Irish Times on the subject stated: “If gender quotas are required to achieve a balance in politics, then they would also be required in other professions such as female-dominated nursing and teaching, given that gender equality is supposed to go both ways.”
Or to bring the argument to a logical conclusion, should such quotas not be introduced then on bin lorries, on fishing trawlers or on jumbo jets?
The perennial and recurring blind-spot that bedevils feministic ideas and movements is that equality, in fact, is more nuanced than the evening of scores, as it were. Historically, women must also take responsibility for the reality that the Sisters often wanted it every way. Four decades ago women were burning their bras, now they use their implanted breasts as weapons of mass destruction.
Cosmetic surgery is the new blood sport of the nouveau riche female slave and the height of a Prada stiletto is often more important than the startling statistic that one-in-four women are still the victims of domestic violence in our so-called sophisticated society.
Of  course, we would have a much healthier political system if more than 13 per cent of our TDs were of the fairer sex. Of course, women would bring new dimensions of empathy, intelligence and vision to a politics now riven by cynicism, greed and corruption. Of course, it is a damning indication of inequality in our society that 60 per cent of constituencies had no women candidates in the last general election. Dramatically, Fianna Fáil had no women at all standing in 28 constituencies while Fine Gael had none in 30.
Senator Ivana Bacik was absolutely right in her report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice that the main obstacles facing women who wish to enter politics are: childcare, cash, confidence, culture and candidate selection procedures.
Ah! Yes, as is the case historically women are still at a significant disadvantage. But introducing quotas is only papering over the cracks of a system that is built on the foundations of male structures, male ideologies and male dominance.
Indeed, we women need to be brutally honest with ourselves about how we would do things differently. Not as a feminist coup. Not as a manipulative eye-fluttering machination to get one over on those bast**ds who have ruined the country. But rather as a positive, proactive, unconditional contribution to the body politic.