Yet I support Gender Quotas – by Paul Bowler, Kerry

This is a guest blogpost by Paul Bowler.

It surprises me that I support legislation which insists political parties run more women candidates.

It surprises me because it is an example of something I should find insupportable. It is State intervention & interference. I tend towards the notion that “government is best which governs least.‘

Yet I support Gender Quotas.
Not only is this an example of the State intervening in our lives, it is based on another ongoing interference. Our political parties are funded by the taxpayer. Without holding the purse strings, the State could not impose its will in this instance. Yet I support Gender quotas…

As a man, I will gain nothing & may (hypothetically) lose a great deal.

I have yet to completely abandon all hope of one day entering Public Life. As things stand, there are few obstacles, other than my own inadequacies. This legislation will mean that the bar will be raised for me. Yet I support Gender Quotas…

I am a capitalist. I may not believe in the ‘tooth & claw’ capitalism espoused by some, but I embrace the necessity of free enterprise. Is this the first step in an inexorable campaign to allow the State to decide for Corporations, who will sit on their Boards? Yet I still support Gender Quotas…

Can a feminist really be in favour of preferential treatment?
As a feminist, I’m uncomfortable with discrimination, be it positive or negative. Two individuals of equal talent, separated only by gender? Of course that should cause one to pause. Yet I support Gender Quotas…

Is this an affront to democracy?
Are we insulting those fallen millions who gave their all for the principal of ‘one man, one vote?’ How can a democrat favour a diminution of this most civilised & civilising ideal? It is totalitarian states who decide who can & cannot run. Yet I support Gender Quotas…

One could say this legislation indicts men as being incapable of representing women & (logically) that women are not able to adequately represent men. If we are all free to stand & all free to vote, surely the result must always be representative? Yet I support Gender Quotas…

If this legislation has the desired effect, the next Dáil will have many more women than the current one. Will these new TDs be called the “quota women”? Will the women who preceded them lose status by association? It might prove difficult for them to be taken seriously. Yet I support Gender Quotas…

The charge is also made that if women are given preferential treatment, why not special help for the other minorities: Africans, Gay Community, Red Heads? This legislation implies women are a more important minority than other minorities. Yet I support Gender Quotas…

Finally: what is the point?
It’s a free country after all. We are all equal. Women are free to run or not run. Our Dáil has operated reasonably successfully for decades. It had weathered existential threat & strife. This could be seen as fixing something that isn’t broken. Yet I support Gender Quotas…

These are all reasonable objections. Objections that any feminist could make. Then why do I support Gender Quotas?

It’s simple really:
The Dáil, our National Legislature, is 85% male. That’s on a good day. A century after gaining legal equality, women remain a minority in their own Parliament. Women continue to lack the power & wealth of men. How can this not be seen as a failure of democracy, even a failure of men?

Should we persist with the status quo, hoping & believing women will inevitably catch up? Men are not suddenly going to take on their fair share of caring for the young, infirm & elderly. Men are not going to forgo their greater wealth. Men are not going to fall in love with housework. Men are certainly not going to lose that confidence which only power imbues.  Male-dominated political parties are not going to decide to empower women, when one of the old boys is in the firing line.

These are the elements of the status quo. This is what militates against our democracy being truly representative & participatory. This situation is not going to change organically.

Only by transferring (surrendering) a portion of power, from the male-dominated Dáil, to women, can change be accomplished. Only by ensuring that a critical mass of women are elected to our Dáil can power begin to be wielded by women.

Only by ensuring women are in positions of power, can Gender Quotas become quickly obsolete.

That’s why I support Gender Quotas…

3 thoughts on “Yet I support Gender Quotas – by Paul Bowler, Kerry

  1. Interesting that Paul lists many very good reasons against quotas and against taxpayer funding of the parties, which is the actual measure that’s being proposed, and then defends this by the disconnected (and entirely uncontroversial) argument that too few women are in the Dail.

    Yes, there are too few women in the Dail.

    And this quota measure is the wrong solution.

  2. Excellent piece Paul.

    I would have said I was against gender quotas, for the very reason you make above that I’m uncomfortable with discrimination (even in a positive sense) but the more I think about it the more I see that quotas are the only way to bring about the change that’s needed.

  3. Hi Paul,

    Great piece. I’ll be forwarding this to a few friends of mine. Particluarly one who over the weekend told me he’s not a femnist because “the whole equality thing isn’t equal”. The same man would probably tell me he’s more logical than I.

    The following line in particular is insightful – “Men are certainly not going to lose that confidence which only power imbues.”


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