At the Risk of Heresy: why is more women in a conservative cabinet a good thing ?

Travis Fast,

If just posing this question irks you just think of it as an excuse to explain to your more right wing fellows why progressives would be in support of more women in the executive than less.  Alas I can only think of one reason to consider more women in a conservative cabinet to be good thing.  Representation is a good in and of itself in democratic community.

But that being the said, where are all the brown people?  If it is a question of representation as a good in and of itself then surely the parliament in general is a perfect reflection of just how excluded non-white minorities are from political representation in the Canadian democratic system.

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “At the Risk of Heresy: why is more women in a conservative cabinet a good thing ?

  1. SEXIST! I mean…well no actually that’s sensible but at least now if I ever get into an awkward conversation about your blog and this post, I can say that I called you a sexist and try to steer the conversation toward miniskirts. It’s a great defensive strategy.

  2. Weak tea (since the effort is too disproportionate to the results), but it does suggest somewhat that social Cons can be pushed to do something a bit better for people other than rich white men if they know their repugnant behaviour will cost them something or they think they can gain by “making nice”.

    And then there’s the strain of conservatism we’re talking about. Neo-con/neo-liberal types don’t generally have a problem with sex or race so long as they think members of the sex or race “merit” consideration ie they can act male and white.

  3. I think your average run-o-the-mill Con would say that the women that were appointed were appointed not because Harper gives two licks about representation but rather because they were the best qualified for the job. Of course if ever called out as sexist they will point to the number of women in the executive.

  4. Government is hardly representative of the people anyway. Since when did 80% or more of the population decide to become qualified as lawyers? I don’t recall ever passing the bar exam.

    If government is representative of anything, it is representative of the apathetic nature of Canadians in regard to democratic governance. I was lucky to have a Libertarian candidate to vote for in this election. Otherwise, I would have had to wrestle with being a non-voter since the ballot does not have a “none of the above” option and there is no way to officially register an abstention in a federal election.

  5. Yah but the question to my mind is not what government currently is but what it ought to be. There are of course much tougher questions to ask about representation. supporting a representative parliament is like supporting free speech: it always has to be done in absence of consideration of what is being said. Not really the kind of politics I find edifying even if I grant the good in of itself of more women in politics and the executive.

  6. Well the answer to your question in my opinion is simple.

    Q: What should government be?
    A: Abolished!

    Everything the government does it does by force. Frankly, if I were a woman with my ideological mind set, I would find it unfortunate that a forceful organization was trying to make it seem as though it was further representing my interests when it clearly does not.

    A representative parliament is (again) hardly representative and in order to make it representative, the population must be far far more engaged than is what can be realistically expected. Even in nations with compulsory voting, the old guard are in charge and equitable representation is hard to see evidenced.

    The population (women included) remains engaged because government is truly not something in which they hold a direct interest. It is an organization which holds a direct interest in us, not the other way around. Despite all of our talk of government being of the people and for the people, there is truly a massive amount of self deception behind that kind of talk. An MLA here in Saskatchewan receives a base pay rate of over $84,000 per year. The average pay is closer to $95,000-$100,000 per year. Exactly which people are these people supposed to be for?

    Government is hardly representative and no amount of extra Women, Chinese, East Indian, Jewish, Black, Hispanic, gay, Lesbian, Disabled, Christain, Islamic, or otherwise “different” members of parliament will change that. Even if boring and offensive old white guys lose the throne, it’s still a terribly flawed and inequitable organizations claiming authority over people that it has no right to claim in the first place.

  7. Ok ZacH you raise lots of points,

    If government were not to be abolished how would you make it more representative?

    That is, I want to know if this is a debate about the state or a debate about how representation ought to be organized?

    I am happy to debate the libertarian / anarchist view of the need to abolish the state.

  8. Sorry Travis, I do tend to get carried away with this type of thing. I can’t ignore my own desire to see a voluntary society without compulsory government but frankly, it’s an unrealistic immediate want and I am an incrementalist when it comes to this type of thing. I’ll work for change rather than an immediate solution which people would not readily accept.

    I don’t think you can make democratic government “more representative” of the people without applying force to the model. If yo apply force to the model of democratic/representative government, who dictates what kind of force is to be applied? If we figure out who, then how do they apply it to ensure equity in the model?

    See, representative government is a system of conflicting interests. You are asking an organization to rule the population via force but at the same time, that population should rule the organization in an equitable fashion. It’s just such an odd concept. One representative is not 70,000 people and certainly 308 of them aren’t 33 million. It’s not equitable representation because even in a majority case, upwards of 49% of the population can feel disenfranchised. Democracy is in an ideal case, the tyranny of the majority.

    What’s worse with representative democratic government without proportional representation though is that majority representation often occurs with a minority of electors. Take 40% of eligible voters out of the equation because t hey don’t vote. Immediatly, we do not hear from them. We don’t know that they are not confident in government, feel they have no choices or are unsatisfied for some other reason. We simply know they didn’t vote. Immediately, they are not represented by government though they are still “required” to pay taxes.

    This leaves us with the 60% of those who voted. Of that 60%, we can usually see 40% of them elect a majority government. This is an incredibly rediculous minority of the population that elects our governors. This is a core problem regarding a lack of representation that is not solved by proportional representation for instance. though I like PR, this is a problem not addressed by PR and certainly not by First past The Post.

    If the population were truly engaged, we would have just as many female candidates as we do male candidates. Women feel intimidated by a political environment that is dominated by traditional male figures and the only way to actually solve that is to really break into the political realm by force. It’s being done but painfully slowly.

    Frankly though, representative democratic government is just not something that can be equitably representative of the population over the long term. In its infancy, it may experience some representational success but as it drags on, it’s like reusing a tea bag over and over again. People become disinterested.

  9. Travis said:

    “I think your average run-o-the-mill Con would say that the women that were appointed were appointed not because Harper gives two licks about representation but rather because they were the best qualified for the job.”

    Doug Henwood did a really nice examination of this (ie how liberal “free marketeer” types like to argue about how they’ve eliminated racism or sexism because of the function of free markets) in his last book “After the New Economy”.

    “Yah but the question to my mind is not what government currently is but what it ought to be.”

    Hm. You ask that of a tool?

    Oh, Plunger! What ought you to be??!!

    “supporting a representative parliament is like supporting free speech: it always has to be done in absence of consideration of what is being said.”

    THERE’S A FIRE IN THE THEATER! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!

    !{)>

  10. “THERE’S A FIRE IN THE THEATER! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!”

    Wow I think I argued that somewhere once. In practice of course there are exceptions. Living as we do in the realm of human all principles have their limit. Hence my original post. But the question is are more women in a conservative cabinet equal to screaming fire in a crowded theater? I would humbly suggest that the latter does not come close to constituting an exception to the good in and of itself of greater representation.

    Zach raises some points: how could 308 ever be an adequate representation of the Canadian community writ large? Surely there are more identities than this. But Zach also raises the question / problem / contradiction of representation in a representative system and the further problem of who decides which identities get elevated to the level of being worthy of representation. If we were to shift the conversation to ideological representation in the Canadian democratic system then we would also be forced to conclude there was a similar lack of representation: The center is clearly over-represented. It is one of reasons I support proportional representation because it would allow for a greater range of ideological positions to heard in public conversations.

    sorry for the incoherence of the response but it was indeed a good Halloween party. And I am only on my fourth cup of coffee.

  11. “But the question is are more women in a conservative cabinet equal to screaming fire in a crowded theater?”

    Of course not. I was poking fun at what I saw as a pretty bourgeois notion of free speech.

    Like I said earlier: having more women in a conservative cabinet’s not much of a big deal (worth half a cheer? a quarter?) but it’s indicative of something that can be seen as positive.

    As for Zach’s points, well, let’s not go there . . . .

    A modern industrial state can only have representation serially, AFAICT.

    “Oh, Plunger! What ought you to be??!!”

    Sorry for being gnomic. I just find it funny that tools like governments or plumber’s helpers, crafted for specific purposes, can have such a wide-ranging question as “What ought you to be used for?” asked of them.

  12. Free speech is far too important to be left to the bourgeois imagination along with representation.

    “A modern industrial state can only have representation serially, AFAICT.”

    Agreed.

    Is not our present government an amalgam of instincts (tools) and is not questioning what it ought be used for part of questioning present state of things? Clearly liberals (in the normative philosophical sense) view the state as narrowly useful and seek to limit the tools at the service of a democratic state. But certainly we can at least be allowed to imagine what would a non-liberal form of democracy would look like.

  13. “Is not our present government an amalgam of instincts (tools) and is not questioning what it ought be used for part of questioning present state of things?”

    Oh! What it ought to be used _for_! I see where my confusion came in, now. I thought you were talking about what it ought to _be_.

    Yes. Questioning what it ought to be used for does mean questioning the current state of things. Here, I think, we’re pretty much agreed.

    “But certainly we can at least be allowed to imagine what would a non-liberal form of democracy would look like.”

    Yup.

  14. Is it really a question of what the tool is being used for or is it a question of the propensity of those who use the tool to use it improperly or for nefarious purposes? Government (as a collection of tools) is always used differently by different ideological types.

    Is it simply a multipurpose tool or is it always being used improperly?

    Cheers

  15. Zach said:

    “Is it really a question of what the tool is being used for or is it a question of the propensity of those who use the tool to use it improperly or for nefarious purposes?”

    And the answer to that seriously depends on your ideology.

    I’d say the former because what one is really talking about when it comes to government is power. And while power can be heady and corrupting (or just “corrupting”), there are ways of taking care of that. Power, to me, is generally a neutral force that can be wielded for a variety of purposes (depending also on structural matters for channeling that power).

    “Government (as a collection of tools) is always used differently by different ideological types.”

    Well, sort of: it’s certainly used for different ends.

    “Is it simply a multipurpose tool or is it always being used improperly?”

    Sort of the former.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s