Monday, June 4, 2012

Gender and politics in France after the 2012 general elections

following the just concluded general elections in France in which Hollande emerged the president, 30% OF ALL ELECTIVE SEATS WENT TO WOMEN. In forming his government, Hollande Ensured Gender parity by making sure that the number of women and men appointed was 50/50.This has guaranteed equity in numbers (quantity) but we still have issues of quality I posit here that Gender quality and quantity will only happen if and when women decide to walk the talk of "women are as good leaders as men" by voting for women!

Relatively well educated women a hindrance to real women empowerment

This might sound paradoxical but it is the practical truth on the ground. In my endeavor at changing the various social constructs that prescribe women to a lower caste than men in most societies, the biggest hurdles I've had to surmount are the relatively well Educated women. These women are in a position to explain at length terms such as feminism, feminist movements,women in Development, Gender, Gender and development etc. To their credit, they don't actually block women empowerment on purpose, but inadvertently. When I tell such women to vote for women, the first answer I get is actually a cliche sold by men: " we need good leaders not female leaders"! This is a good answer in a place like Rwanda where women actually make up over 50% in elective positions. In such a country, everyone realizes that women are as good leaders ( or as bad leaders) as men. Rwandan society is past the stage of quantity and they are now at the level of quality. Such a cliche is worse than mere dangerous in a society like Kenya where the term "leader" and "man" are routinely used interchangeably. Or in the US of A where Republicans believe that "women cannot be POTUS". Such a statement can be deliberately misinterpreted by some male chauvinist to "only men are good leaders". It easy to convince women and men in such societies that leader implies strength, and strength is only inherently present in men. They'll therefore choose from amongst the male candidates and ignore all the female candidates irrespective of qualifications or lack thereof. Incidentally,these same educated women will be at the forefront of agitation for quotas for women. And the question that really shake my head is: if in elections it's not about women but leaders, how come now it's now about women? To flip the argument, they stop Women from flexing their electoral muscle to get half the elective positions with dignity,then grovel for alms in form of quotas. Usually a third! I'm so much interested in women and politics for various reasons. First and foremost, politics affords one (or a group) the power of prioritizing policies. Decisions affecting the daily life of people of a country are made at the political level. In other words,politics is real power and getting more women in politics is the ultimate women empowerment. Secondly, women in most countries have suffrage rights and the numerical strength to effect real political change. That is, by electing women, they can change the power dynamics on which patriarchy hinges. Thirdly, Political leadership is the most visible form of leadership,and all the other forms pay homage to it. More women in politics would send a very strong message to all the other social spheres that women are leaders. The message will seep down to the family level and cause changes in the way we socialize our daughters. Our daughters will grow up knowing that women and men are leaders. It will also send a very strong message to the file and rank of management (private/public) that women can be as good managers (a form of leadership) as men. As things stand now, many very qualified women are mark-timing in mediocre positions, in both public and private bodies, as men are reluctant to promote them. These same highly educated women will write books, carry out research, and present academic papers showing that there's no qualitative improvement in the lives of women by having women in politics. In the same vein they conclude that elected women end up being assimilated into the patriarchal system. The glaring point they hide,or don't recognize from their arguments is that most of these women are actually voted in by men, not women. Women mostly vote for men. The last time I checked, the one who pays the piper, calls the tune. These elected women bend over backwards to please their core constituency: men! Imagine Obama officially inviting all Kenyans in the USA to the Whitehouse...?! Such educated women leave pondering as to their motivations. First, that it is possible that they are reluctant to acknowledge women are as good leaders as men in order to keep getting funds for "women empowerment" Secondly, that maybe the Patriarchal system of socialization has scarred them for life with the "women are weak" message. Maybe, the education system is so patriarchal in nature,and they are just regurgitating to us the imbibed knowledge so we shouldn't judge them too harshly... By the bye there's nothing that spells "weakness" in capital letters than Quotas! This article first appeared here