Gender Quotas and Tennis Courts
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Much is made of the under-representation of women in the Dail and many people have been calling for gender quotas to be brought in. However little consideration is given to what the imposition of quotas mean. What signal do they send out.So first lets look at the claim that women are under-represented in the Dail. What does this mean?
The under representation of a group of people has been the basis of many a political up rising. Most notably French Revolution where the
third estate feeling that they wereunder-represented at the estates general broke away from the meeting and took the tennis court oath. Thus starting the French revolutionand the end of the power of the first 2 estates. The first 2 estates consisting of the church and nobility were dictating laws on taxation that the 3rd estate (professionals basically) had to endure a proportionally greater share.
So here we had the case where the under-represented 3rd estate were being told by the over –represented nobility what to do. Clearly the case was that the nobility could not represent the non-nobility. Just as the Ascendency Grattens parliament could not represent the “native” Irish. So when we look at the idea of under-representation of women in the Dail in the context of history we have to answer the following question.
Can men represent women, or indeed can women represent men.
If indeed theanswer is yes, then women are not under-represented in parliament. As a male TD can serve the needs of a male constituent as well as a female constituent. If the answer to that question is no. Then we have a situation that states that men can not represent women and women cannot represent men.
So by definition men can’t elect women and women can’t elect men and thus we would require gender specific ballot papers. Robbing us of the idea that we are a democracy that elects citizens to represent citizens, instead having a genderocracy.
Now of course the use of the word under-represented is used out of context by proponents of gender quotes. When really what they mean is that the Dail is unrepresentative. This of course means that women and men are entirely represented by their TD regardless of gender but that the Dail is not fully representative of the societal make up of modern Ireland.This is indeed true the Dail is not, but this is not an effect solely effecting women. The make up of the Dail does not represent much insociety. Travellers, homosexuals, muslims, immigrants , women, disabled, under 30s, single mothers, early school leavers etc etc. All these groups and probably more do not have the number of TD’s in proportion to their societal numbers. When issues that effect women are debated such as the ceverical cancer vaccine while there is not 83 females to weight in on the issue there are some. Compare this to the debates on the citizenship referendum where no one of an immigrant back ground was present to argue their case . Which of course veers back into the suggestion that citizens can only be represented by people from their same backgrounds. But considering that their is more that defines our experience in society then gender or country of birth covering all experiences of society would require 4 million debuties,
By introducing gender quotes we are effectively suggesting that the fact the Dail is not representative of female of a bad thing needing correction, but the non statistically accuracy of the Dail in other categories is something not in need of correction and condoned. The Dail should be considered to be citizens elected by citizens while more female, gay, traveller, disabled etc TD’s would be nice anything that puts a proviso on the word citizen does not increase democracy it decreases it.