How is the election campaign for you? Feeling anyway inspired or reminded in a positive way about the role of women in Irish society? The role that women will have in renewing Ireland, One Ireland, Real Ireland, Getting Ireland working again? (Yes I’ve swallowed one too election slogans – I promise to lay off them for a bit).
I could spend a few hundred words talking about the 15% of candidates who are female, the lack of consideration of gender by many parties in their manifestos despite the wringing of hands saying that we must do something about it. But anytime I try to raise these issues I get shouted down or endure mild abuse for daring to point out all male panels, the lack of inclusion of women’s issues never mind women’s voices, the cheek of thinking that there might be women’s issues in the first place – you get the picture. Or maybe you don’t.
Anytime I ponder on the fact that the Ireland I see in this election campaign is not reflective of my life, my society, my friends or my view of equality and inclusion in society, I am told there are far more urgent problems to be addressed and ‘we are all people’.
If we were all people then the people we were seeing running for election would be a mix of genders, abilities, ethnicities and abilities. The issues we would be discussing would be about all of us and all our opportunities and not those who happening to be able to pay income tax or want to do so. Those who can’t pay tax because they don’t earn money or can’t earn income are not represented or talked about in this campaign. The women who don’t have their own incomes are not talked about in this campaign, the women ‘at home’ raising children or caring for others, or the women without homes.
I don’t feel like talking about political reform because I believe that debate to be elitist and disillusioning. I would like my political representatives to acknowledge the crisis that is our society and its lack of visibility of anyone other than male economists, politicians and bankers.
I don’t want to hear about quotas and how good or bad they are – men won’t let them happen, many women don’t want them to happen. And it does not actually show how much of a crisis we are facing and ‘existing’ in with regards to the lack of female leadership in the other ‘crisis’.
Before February 25th I would like to hear leaders talk about women without patronising us or forgetting us, about the many different cultures who live in Ireland who are not being heard in this debate (notice how white and male we have become suddenly?)
The campaign linguistics are all about leadership and gendered leadership, about being aggressive or not aggressive enough, about appearing presidential (which is now code for male) about turning up for debates (code for being macho). Women where we do see them are pointed to and mocked for being screechy, fighting to get heard and not being macho enough.
Male, pale and stale. And unlikely to change anytime soon and that’s before we think about the devastation that the EU/IMF deal will have on our public expenditure and the women who work within and rely upon for so many supports. Because we are not supposed to look at things in a gendered gaze anymore, that’s the message I’m picking up in #GE11 and it’s not an Ireland I want to be part of.