The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Men in Parliament

I seem to be sighing a lot lately. The latest inspiration of that tired and frustrated exhalation is the thread resulting from DPF's post about the representation of women in different parliaments around the world.

I've said it before, and it's relevant here too; I don't generally read the comment threads on Kiwiblog anymore. But I thought, hey the post clearly shows that women are under-represented throughout the world, how bad can it be?

Silly me.

Imagine if DPF had instead represented the situation like this:

The "bottom" country is surprisingly Rwanda with 41/80 MPs being men, or

NZ is in 14th= place (out of 189 countries) at 68%.

Australia is 33rd with 75%.

Nine countries have only men as legislators. The top ranked
European country is Ukraine at 91%, then Russia 90%, Romania 89%, and France

Perhaps then the outrage from the commenters would have been more muted, particularly from that enlightened fellow who said NZ needs to be more like the Ukraine. If you like it so much why don't you move there?

Men, your woes (real or imagined) are not caused by women holding positions of power. As you can see, you still hold the majority in every parliament in the world. And that doesn't even include those religious autocracies which I think I can safely say are governed almost unanimously by men and actively suppress women's roles outside the home.

The stats clearly show that men continue to be over-represented in the parliaments of the world. Let's hope our country can help change that in 2008.

Update, 5th March 2007, 3.24pm - fixed link to DPF's post. Sorry about that, I used his trackback URL but it obviously doesn't work!


Gerrit said...

While the parliamantary memebership is totally up to the eelctorate vote, it is the various political parties that choose their list and electorate representatives. Be intersting to get a breakdown of which party has equal number of males to females in their electoral candidates and list MP's A party like Labour and National should then in theory have at leat a 50/50 split for their top 30 electorate and list MP's.

Whiel the smaller ones it is a bit more difficult.

Hope you are not looking for a quota system! We want the best people irrespective of gender, race, orientation or other abnormality. (do we have equal representaion for disabled people)

Lukily the electorate chooses their representatives so you cannot really make the electorate MP's split 50/50. After all women vote so they must have voted for the men if the split is not 50/50.

However the party list are choosen by the politicaL paries so you could advocate these to be balanced.

Span said...

So if we know that women are roughly 50% of the population, and yet are under 50% of those elected then surely that suggests some kind of systematic bias to you?

Not necessarily some coterie of men keeping women out of power through nefarious means (although I am sure there would be some examples of that throughout history).

But we know that women are interested in public roles, increasingly so as women have been less legally and socially constrained from taking an interest, running for election etc. Yet we still lag a long way behind, even in such "enlightened" places as NZ.

Doesn't this suggest a problem to you?

And yes, we probably should have more people with disabilities represented. And more ethnic diversity, and more age diversity, etc etc. Yet our parliaments are consistently made up of older male members of the ethnic majority...

Psycho Milt said...

If you haven't been reading DPF's comment threads, you missed the parade of sick fucks that turned up to piss all over Louise Nicholas and the latest complainant. The stuff about female representation in parliaments around the world is very tame by comparison. Personally, I find it a salutary lesson - you tend to forget these poisonous, hate-filled creatures exist if you don't stop by every now and then and pick up a reminder that yes, they really do hate people with ovaries. But then, I'm not on the receiving end.

Gerrit said...

Hopefully we have in New Zealand political parties putting up the best candidates to contest the electorates and be added onto their listed rankings.

What you are saying that women are so busy they dont have time for politics plus that men are schemers to keep them out. Well all power then to Helen Clark and all the other women in parliamant. From memory we have more women PM in the last 20 years then men. Clark, Shipley, etc. and not to mention all the other high profile Governor General and Chief Justice positions.

By that account us men are terrible schemers and pretty hopelss at keeping women bare foot and pregnant.

The political parties select the list MP's so they are responsible for deciding who is better then another.

I guess what yo are saying is that we should have a seperate parliamentary vote for women and men and that we should only vote for our own gender?

I think deep down you know this is the electorate choosing who is best for them, not a gender issue at all.

Maybe it should be mandatory for political parties to have 50/50 splits in their candidate selections!

Could the Alliance set a precedent. Like the Greens with their dual leadership roles.

Do you want the best person in parliamant to represent you or a quota system of gender balance?

I want the best people to represent me and if they were all
women or men I wouldn't care.

Sanctuary said...

I wouldn't worry so much about DPF. His site is dying under the weight of its own shit. It now little more than an echo chamber of the most vulgar and impolite losers imaginable.

Span said...

Gerrit, I challenge you to find the part of my post or comment that represents my thoughts as you have:
"What you are saying that women are so busy they dont have time for politics plus that men are schemers to keep them out."

That's totally not what I'm saying.

"Women" and "men" don't act as politically coherent and monolithic groups.

The above said, I have personally seen groups of men organise to block women from being elected to positions, to harass them into not running, or to pull down particular women (or groups of women) who have had some electoral success. Similarly I've seen groups of women organise together for strength to win (sometimes successful, sometimes not).

PM, that's exactly why I am very choosy about which comment threads I bother with on Kiwiblog these days.

Sanctuary, yes I mostly agree with you, but sadly Kiwiblog is a common destination for journos, politicos, etc, and I hope that by occasionally contributing a sane comment it will show that there are rational people out here on the blogs (and that sonic isn't alone!) Don't worry though, I don't lose any sleep over it. Especially now that PA System is going great guns.

Sanctuary said...

Actually span DPF is just a certain section of our society saying in a public forum what they say in private a lot anyway. Listening to the appalling Martin Devlin this morning (I'm car pooling, OK?) I was again astonished at the ability of dominant white males to create a victim fantasy around themselves as a way of never having to say either "sorry" or "I was wrong."

Span said...

So what do we do sanctuary? Is it pointless to challenge them? I do it little enough as it is I feel. Any tips greatfully received :-)

rob of davies said...

Who listens to talkback when they're car pooling? How rude to inflict Devlin/Henry/"Banksie"/Bennett etc etc on others. You have my sympathy Sanctuary...

Pamziewamzie said...

Totally agree Span. The fact that most parties don't put an equal amount of women up as candidates implies that they think women aren't capable as candidates.

Span said...

It's easy to forget sometimes, with a woman PM, and other powerful women, that the XXers are still in a minority in positions of power. The recent police rape trials have been a strong reminder to me that we still have a long long way to go.

Craig Ranapia said...

Pamziewamzie wrote:
The fact that most parties don't put an equal amount of women up as candidates implies that they think women aren't capable as candidates.

LOL... In my (admittedly modest) experience, I've supported and campaigned for women candidates - and when I've encouraged good people (both male and female) to put their names forward, they've all but laughed in my face.

Pam, I think there's a much deeper and more serious issue here and it won't be addressed by gender quotas in the House or any party. I'll put it this way: A few years back, I suggested to a woman of my acquaintance - right-leaning but far from the stereotypical Tory - that she should get more involved in the party and put her name forward for selection. She asked me why she'd give up a successful small business she'd worked her arse off to build from nothing? Why take on a workload where she'd become an absentee parent and spouse just like the father she loved but resented for never being around? Why spend pretty much every waking moment in a Parliamentary culture she couldn't glimpse on the news without feeling sick? And you know something, I didn't have an answer - because I wouldn't want to swap mine for that of a professional politician either.

Gerrit said...

Fair comment Craig,

I would like to make the suggestion that the term a politician may serve be no more than 3. That way we do away with the career politician and open it up to all members of society.

I'm not sure if this would balance the gender equality but it may.

Span said...

We do have a problem Craig, with the way being a politician works. I don't think it's restricted to those who have successful businesses either. I think being an MP is actually a huge sacrifice to make in terms of your family (whether you have children or not). Both in the time you are away and in the criticism that they become subject to if you get in the news.

But politicians are so frequently attacked here (verbally and written I mean) that I don't know how we could change that. There is a perception that they are all (or at least the ones you don't like) on some kind of gravy train, but anyone who has worked with MPs at any point knows that isn't true.

Perhaps changing that culture is one thing that could make politics more attractive to those who currently can't or don't seek it. MMP has certainly made our parliament more diverse, and I think I read somewhere that some long time MPs felt that the nature of the House has changed (for the better) since the chamber became more diverse too.

Craig Ranapia said...

We do have a problem Craig, with the way being a politician works. I don't think it's restricted to those who have successful businesses either.

No it isn't, and that's not really what I was saying - just that the specific woman I was talking about had put her heart and soul into hers, and getting that work/life balance thingy to her satisfaction wasn't the least of it. There's plenty of working women who can't say the same, so why would she want to give any of it up?

I agree with you there's got to be a real culture change - not only in Parliament but parties and campaigns as well - if we're going to attract good people who regard politics as public service not a career. It's not going to happen overnsight, and I'm all out of quick and simple fixes... but I guess the old therapy cliche has some truth to it, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. I'm just a little sceptical whether more women in the House is really going to do it -- after all, I've seen more than a few women on all sides who seem as keen to be walking toxic waste as any man. :(

ScrubOne said...

It would be mildly interesting to do a follow-up survey to see how many women feel represented with a male MP.

I know my wife does. I would hazard a guess that you wouldn't.

Span said...

scrubone, I presume that is directed at me?

To be honest I've never thought about feeling that my particular local MP doesn't represent me just because he's a man. In my case I feel that he doesn't represent me because I'm a left-wing feminist, and he's not.

But I acknowledge that he does represent my electorate, and I think he does a good job at that. I can understand why he has a big majority and I believe that if I ever had a problem that his electorate office could help with they would do a good job.

The issue for me isn't just about having a local MP that is Just Like You. That is never going to happen, for the vast majority of people. The issue is having decision-makers in our society who reflect the make-up of that society.

Anonymous said...

Few people would seem to agree with you - candidate gender doesn't seem to be a vote-changing issue for most people. Nor does selection process or list structure, or you'd expect The Greens with their 50%/alternation strategy to get a larger proportion of the vote.

As for changing parliament so that more people are willing to serve... be grateful you're in NZ. Any time you want to get really sick to the stomach, take a look across the Tasman, where about the most constructive thing I can say is "well, women are permitted to be elected (except as leaders of major parties other than The Greens)". Straight White Men All The Way in the Big A.

Moz said...

The issue is having decision-makers in our society who reflect the make-up of that society.

Sorry, but I believe that representative democracy is a good system. I would prefer to have elected members who are smarter, more committed and more interested in politics than the average for the country or electorate. NZ has seen the "average" parliamentarian, and she lasted less than one term IIRC. It's a nice theory, but just as most people can't be bothered getting a medical degree in order to work out why they're sick, or studying plumbing to fix their toilet, I doubt that most people are more than vaguely interested in what makes good law and how to achieve that. Much simpler to hire the relevant expert.

I think there's an argument for conscripting MPs, just as we do with juries, but that's something completely different.

Span said...

Does something have to be a big vote winner to make it right? For example, many parties now have openly gay candidates, and that won't be the only reason someone will vote for them over another party. However it might be a reason not to NOT vote for them, if that makes sense.

Yes Australia is sad. Yes I am glad we are not like them in this instance. But I don't think that means we can rest on our laurels.

Moz, who is your average parliamentarian?

I'm not for a moment suggesting that everyone in parliament fit some stereotypical "average Kiwi" mould. But we have a diverse society, and I'd like to see a diverse parliament to match. Surely that isn't so hard or unreasonable?

It's good to have some people who have a grounding in politics, but it's also great to have people with none. That's so often where new ideas come from.