Too few women in politics?

I’m not surprised that Helen Clark is “shocked” at the “low” numbers of women in politics. It’s common for people to express disappointment that others don’t make the choice of work, lifestyle or hobby that they do.

I am surprised at the poor argument she makes.

I’m indifferent to whether there’s more of any gender, race, belief or ideology in politics. There’s no evidence that any of these fundamental aspects of humanity are better for politics. They are all subject to very human foibles, delusions and self-interest. Yet from any of them could, and has, come the potential for great human benefit.

Clark’s thinking and expression in this article is the “over coffee” sort; a personal viewpoint expressed without regard for evidence.

For example;

  1. describing the numbers as “low”, when self-evidently they are historically normal. “Low” is pejorative toward an outcome she has yet to prove is necessary.
  2. her concentration on numbers of political women in modern states, not human history; it’s a reasonably impressive history.
  3. her sense that people in this century must be different (implied smarter) than all preceding ones; when did that happen, and even if it did, it’s not an argument for anything.
  4. saying that Athenian male-orientated democracy “will not do in the 21st century” – which is polemic and false contrast, not an evidence argument at all. That something “will not do” is not an argument.
  5. her failure to appreciate that many people, including women, can think of a lot of better things to do than be in politics;
  6. her rewrite of the objective of NZ’s child care funding to help children, when its origins were to allow women to work – as Clark’s era of feminist theory saw dignity in a very different sort of female ‘labour’. Clark became embroiled in controversy over comments she made about the value of non-working women.
  7. Her use of Rwanda as a model state because it has 50% women MPs and they passed gender violence laws. Leaving aside the success of Rwanda in a wider sense, is the purpose of having women MPs really to pursue a ‘female’ political agenda? I would have thought it was about having better considered political outcomes across social and economic fields.

Politics and gender is a fraught thing.

Too few women in politics?

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