While much is being made of Nancy Pelosi’s comments on the relative lack of women in Saudi politics (see below), here at home, under very different circumstances, we’re hearing some of the same issues – and criticisms.
Stephane Dion is actively seeking female candidates to run for the federal Libs – he’s even stated that he’s willing to use a quota system to ensure “adequate representation”, and to kick out male candidates to make room for female ones.
Here in Quebec, criticism abounded after last week’s election reduced the number of female MNAs from 39 to 32.
Arguments like this have always annoyed me. As a woman, I believe that I ought to have every right and opportunity to do anything a man can do. And I also believe that, unlike in Saudi Arabia, here in Canada (and Quebec), that’s pretty much true.
Women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive, can’t vote, can’t walk out on the street unaccompanied by a male relative, have to hide behind veils and robes, can’t participate in society as free and equal members. Saudi Arabia’s problems run far deeper than simply ensuring adequate representation among elected officials. (For starters, the elections themselves are a sham… But that’s a whole different rant.)
In contrast, here, women are free, full and equal members of society. If barriers still exist – and I acknowledge that they do – they are no longer legal and we are working hard to deinstitutionalize them.
But politicians who rant about not having enough women candidates are not saying so because they truly believe that women are barred from politics or lack opportunities; they’re doing it for reasons that are – no pun intended – purely cosmetic.
And finally, a refreshing perspective on the subject from Brigitte Pellerin in the Ottawa Citizen:
According to something called the Inter-Parliamentary Union (ipu.org), Rwanda ranks first in the world with 48.8 per cent women representation in the national legislature, whereas Canada is 48th with 20.8 per cent. The United States, where we all know women are routinely persecuted by a political class bent on systemic gender inequality, is 68th with 16.3 per cent. So, is the theory that we’d be better off if we were governed more like Rwanda?
[ . . . ]
And if we’re legislating quotas for perspective, then we should also make the proportion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, etc. representatives match their share of the general population, assuming we even know it. And once we get there, shouldn’t we also worry about religious representation? What about race?
To me equality means not caring whether my elected representative is male or female or black or gay or Methodist or whatever. And democracy means letting people elect whomever they think represents their views. I believe enforcing equal representation of women in politics would be wrong, undemocratic, and possibly even counterproductive. I suspect I am not alone.
Nope, not alone at all. I agree completely. And I encourage you to read the whole thing.
Equality by quota is counter-productive in the long run. It doesn’t eradicate barriers, it merely sets up new ones. Equality really ought to mean equality of opportunity, and that will only happen when we stop electing, hiring people based on their gender or skin colour or language or religion, and start judging them based on ideas, accomplishments, and – what’s that old-fashioned outdated thing again? – oh yeah, merit.
(But that just wouldn’t be, y’know, politically correct).