(This is a guest blog I wrote for the 50 50 Group)

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 and 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 tax payer. 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 and 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 and 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 and civilising ideal? It is totalitarian states who decide who can and cannot run. Yet I support Gender Quotas.

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

If this legislation has the desired affect, then 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 to be given preferential treatment, then why not special help for the other minorities; the Africans, the Gay Community, the 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 and our Dáil has operated reasonably successfully for decades. It had weathered existential threat and 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. And 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 and 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 and believing that women will inevitably catch up? Men are not suddenly going to take on their fair share of caring for the young, the infirm and the elderly. Men are not going to forgo their greater wealth. Men are not going to fall in love with house work. Men are certainly not going to lose that confidence which only power imbues and 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 and 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.

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