Jumbled thoughts on all-female shortlists

The SNP have introduced all-female shortlists, and everyone has to have their tuppence… so here’s mine. 2000px-Igualtat_de_sexes.svg

  1. As a moral imperative, something has to happen to move us sharply towards 50% female representation in parliament. The long-standing under-representation of women in parliament is a moral outrage. If you disagree, there’s not much I can say to you – we simply have different values.
  2. All-female shortlists are a way of getting there. We have to crack open the boy’s club by force. Our daughters must grow up believing that politics is for them, too. They do have some serious flaws: they are a restriction on democracy, they can be used by the leadership to crack down on dissent (Tony Blair famously used them this way). But in the absence of an alternative that will reach the goal in (1), we have to back them.
  3. The onus is on those who oppose all-female shortlists to propose credible alternatives to reach the goal in (1).
  4. While some people who oppose all-female shortlists do hate women (hating women is sadly pretty common), there are also plenty of people who oppose all-female shortlists who do not hate women, and it is unfair and counterproductive to call them misogynists simply on the basis of their opposition – especially given that quite a few are women themselves.
  5. In 21 of 44 seats where the shortlist was mixed, a woman was selected. That’s 47%. While there is sexism in the SNP membership as in any part of society, the membership’s sexism is not the biggest barrier: all-male shortlists are.
  6. More important in the long run than all-female shortlists will be the commitment to a gender-balanced party list at Holyrood. This seems to be the key mechanism in Sweden’s success in equalising representation.
  7. Proactive leadership and confidence-building programmes are vital. Almost nobody enjoys public speaking. People only learn confidence by being pushed into it.
  8. We must teach our children that politics is for women. Meetings of left-wing fringe parties in Glasgow are often 75% male. I was often told (including by well-meaning women) that this was because they were too theoretical and argumentative and boring. That sounded plausible until I attended a meeting about art and economics at the CCA. It was majority-female and mostly consisted of exactly the same kind of high-minded and irritating arguments about Marx and surplus value and so on as happen in left wing party meetings. I can only conclude that a sense of permission is a key factor: (some/many) women are taught that they are allowed strident opinions about art but not politics.
  9. We are going to need a more complete picture of the factors restricting women’s political involvement. I’ve suggested a couple: leadership skills, permission, membership sexism, the existence of old boy’s clubs. Other factors include the abuse directed at prominent women on social media (men receive abuse too but it’s clear that women receive more, and of a worse nature), and probably plenty of other things I’m not thinking of. It would be better to have hard peer-reviewed evidence than rely on our intuitions.
  10. This problem runs way beyond gender. Any measures only targeted at gender will benefit upper and middle class women more than working class women. That is not an argument against the measures – but it is a major limitation.
  11. Last but not least: fellow men, you can have opinions about this stuff, but for god’s sake have some humility and listen to the full range of views and experiences from women. They have a really hard deal, and a lot of stuff happens to them that most men just don’t see. Whenever I speak to the women in my life about sexism they face, I am taken aback. There is a minority of highly misogynist men who subject women to massive amounts of abuse – but like all cowards they do the worst of it when we’re not watching. Listen to women.
  1. Don’t think I’d disagree with any of that. I want us to get to a situation where AWS are not needed, and we’re not going to get that until we have more women being active at local level.

    I think a lot of candidates are chosen because the non-active members just choose the person they recognise, and often that’s going to be a councillor or former MP/MSP/MEP, and since men dominate our parliaments and councils, that’s usually going to be a man. So we’re not going to get more women in parliament naturally until we have more female councillors. And we won’t have more female councillors naturally until we have more women elected to local branch executives. And we won’t have more women elected to branch executives naturally until we have more women coming to meetings. And we probably won’t have more women coming to branch meetings naturally until we have more women coming out chapping doors etc – I’ve been out door-chapping when there are just men, but I’ve never been out door-chapping when I was the only man.

    I find it bizarre that this hasn’t been cracked yet, though. There must surely be research into why participation at local level is so heavily weighted towards men.

    I intend to make some suggestions to my branch when we meet after the election, though – all branch positions to have at least one male and female candidate, maybe try and get more discussions going on at meetings and use them as a way to get more women to speak up and so on. I dare say there’s more that could be done, although I dunno what.

  2. Reblogged this on My Day Out With An Angel.

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