Friday, 11 April 2014

Equality isn't a checklist

Equality for women in parliament is increasingly baring all the hallmarks of a technocratic exercise

Numbers, percentiles, quotas...

One of the biggest fallouts from the Maria Miller expenses scandal among the fourth estate mainstream media has been the 'lack of women in cabinet'. However having swallowed the glut of coverage on the subject, I'm left wondering if anyone else has spotted the wider scandal?

Take for example the thoroughly well-intentioned column in the Independent by Jane Merrick. She concludes that the big scandal is that "there are no working mothers" in the cabinet. Well I'm putting it to Ms Merrick, she doth miss the point entirely.

Beyond the discussions about all-women short-list this, and 35% target for women representation that; is the creeping technocracy of feminism. When did the wider battle (that of altering social & cultural norms to empower equality for women) give way to a box ticking exercise?

Take for example, this from the Independent:

"Sajid Javid appointment means there are now just three women in the Cabinet..."

I have a number of problems with this assertion. And none of them is to take issue with the broad 'fact' that it is technically 'true'. After all, there are now just three women in the UK cabinet. But my big problem is that this kind of feminist activism is fundamentally bureaucratic. At no point is there even a passing reference to the larger issue at stake: the fact that equality measures in politics, business, civic life, now seem to bare all the hallmarks of check lists. 
'How many women do we have? Is that enough of them?' seems like the surest way to protect prevailing misogynist cultural attitudes. Prejudicial men would clearly love to hide behind ink-blot equality to avoid exposure of their cultural & daily attitudes, modes of behaviour.

Are we feminists really simply content to let the broader struggle for equality become boiled down to paper discourse? 

The unnamed Labour MP (female, if that is at all relevant) hits the nail firmly on the head:

"It is not good enough to have women in government if they are not also fighting for parity with men"

Bravo! Isn't that the real point? And isn't this exposing the real scandal of modern feminist activism in our British political life? Today women in parliament are treated like an exercise in technical efficiency. The fake logic goes as follows, 'we need more women to protect 'us' from accusations of misogyny...so lets find some women'.
What is happening is less a championing of real female talent, and empowering them to compete with their male counterparts. More a banal exercise in avoidance action.

At no point do we have the larger discussion about the fact that while younger girls are educationally out-performing boys; why they continue to only manage to rise to the top via 'special measures'. I put it to you, members of parliament like Betty Boothroyd & Barbara Castle are the real feminist heroes. Not some faceless figure who happens to have a womb & ticks the technocratic box assigned 'statutory women representation'.