Making politics a warm house for women…?

More soberly in yesterday’s Irish Times Fionnuala O’Connor noted (subs needed):

Despite the novelty of cyber-launches and blogs, the campaign on all sides is more slog than storm. It is also massively, shamingly male: a total 46 women out of 256 candidates. The SDLP is rightly proud that 14 of those 46 are theirs, the outcome of a deliberate and protracted effort.

Although few of the SDLP women standing will have much of a chance of winning a seat, Sharon Haughey is the exception rather than the rule, some of the party’s rivals efforts seem puny in comparison:

Alliance is running seven women out of 18 candidates. By contrast, the Ulster Unionists produced an election broadcast introduced and concluded by a sweet-faced young female student. It was presumably an attempt to compensate for the pitiful sight of their 38 candidates. The party with the longest history and deepest roots in civic society found just one woman to represent them. Some statement whatever way you approach it: that UUs think women unsuited to politics, or that women do not find Ulster Unionism attractive?

Something of an embarrassment for a party who’s only MP is female! It’s something Noel Thompson took Reg Empey to task over on Hearts and Minds, and ellicited a promise from the UUP leader that his party would have 10% women candidates by the time of the super council elections, expected in 2009. Putting some of them in places where they stand a reasonable chance of election would help too.

Unionists will admit, even boast, that theirs is a conservative political world. Reactions to women who break with convention can be primitive, and for a long time went unchallenged. When the two Women’s Coalition representatives spoke in the ambitiously-titled “Forum for Political Dialogue”, half of the DUP group made moo-ing noises. Iris Robinson, proud to be anti-feminist, made a point of laughing appreciatively.

That was in 1996. Political parties are increasingly aware that it makes sense to have more women members, if only to attract more women voters. Of the DUP’s 46 candidates, six are women. On the day the party was required to say something to the media in response to Sinn Féin’s policing ardfheis, the cameras accompanied a Paisley strollabout on Stormont’s pathways. Sunshine and a big black hat dominated, but the unmistakeable profile leaned towards keen, young Arlene Foster, alertly listening, leaving the lesser men unconsidered in the background.

This using of women as photo op stars rather than as serious political operators she argues began with Sinn Fein, the party with “probably more women at all levels than any other party”. Those in public life who have take on senior roles have also taken a fair amount of personal flak. If Northern Ireland drifts behind other parts of the UK and Ireland, there may be some perfectly sound historical reasons for it:

For years, many in unionist and nationalist political life slept with guns by their bedsides. That danger, plus the harsh exchanges in what few political forums existed, made politics deeply unattractive to many men and even more women. Among devolution’s benefits should be encouragement to women to move into politics.

Who knows – there might even be a female High Court judge some day.


  • MÓG

    Sinn Féin have plenty of women in important positions. They have two female MEPs. That’s a postitive message to send to Europe. The other parties should take note. Sinn Féin will have many female MLAs elected. I think this fact has been ignored in the above article.

  • Of course, another question one could ask is how many women occupy senior positions within parties? I could be wrong, but I get the distinct impression that the key movers and shakers in most parties would be of the XY chromosome variety. This is not helped by the overt sexism many women face when they attempt to make a useful contribution, lest the old boys would be shown up for the useless wastes of space they are.

  • SuperSoupy

    Women occupy many of the senior positions in SF.éin_Ard_Chomhairle

  • Mick Fealty

    Just in case you missed it, I did quote her directly here: “Sinn Fein, the party with probably more women at all levels than any other party”. I hardly think it’s wide of the mark, particularly when most of the concentration is on the poor performance on the Unionist side of the house…

    But do people genuinely think there is not a problem then?

  • There are many problems with local “politics” and an inability to appeal to women is one. I’m definitely not convinced quotas or positive discrimination of any form is the right way to resolve the issue. Normally positive discrimination lowers the standard of employees, at least in the short term, though that said I’m not sure how much lower it could get than that bunch at Stormont….

    Finally: the Women’s Coalition deserved all the derision they got. Appealing exclusively to one group on the basis of gender or race is as bad as, if not worse than, appealing on the grounds of religion or sectarian tribe.

  • joeCanuck

    Where are you living Beano? On the moon?
    How many of our major parties are NOT appealing to the electorate based on religion or sect?

  • observer

    this pc crap is gettin boring now. Select women because theyre er… women

  • I hope the article above isn’t suggesting that Alliance having over one-third female candidates and is pathetic (especially when it’s roughly the same proportion as the SDLP) and we have by far the highest proportion of women councillors.

  • JC – that’s my point. That’s bad enough. The NIWC did the exact same thing and yet tried to make out that they were some how better than that.

  • Mick Fealty

    It did in first draft Sammy, then I put in some. Fifty percent of candidates is good by anyone’s standards.


    I don’t think any such trite prescription is being offered above. Tokenism is likely to be counter productive. But when there are women in both British and Irish cabinets, you do have to wonder why so few make it to the top in NI? And it prompts one to ask what efforts parties are making to promote female talent?

  • joeCanuck


    My guess (nothing more) is that a lot of it has to do with the possibility that women are so disgusted with the whole political process in N.I. that they just don’t engage.
    Those who might wish to get in there and try to change things probably are seen by the establisment as uppity and aren’t encouraged.
    One thing that I don’t fail to miss on my 2 yearly visit back is that a lot of women in N.I. are still subservient to their husbands, at least compared to Canada..

  • braveman

    Seriously, why do we want more women in politics? Apart from Margaret Thatcher can’t think of a good one. What’s wrong with their kitchens. Some people are never satisfied.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Haven’t you heard, Braveman? Maggies was “the wrong sort of woman”.

  • observer

    it prompts one to ask what efforts parties are making to promote female talent?
    Posted by Mick Fealty on Feb 24, 2007 @ 03:07 PM#

    why, just becasue they`re female they should be promoted?

  • joeCanuck


    I think Mick was concentrating on the word “talent”

  • MÓG

    The DUP let wives in. Looks at Mrs Dodds and Robinson. Foster got in cause she was leaving the UUP. How many women MLAs does that leave the DUP with?

  • Mick Fealty


    If that is what I actually said, you might have a point. As Joe notes, I italicised the word talent specifically so that it might not be misinterpreted. So much for that gambit.


    It leaves them with precisely the same number. I do understand you are making a party political point, but the original question still stands unaddressed.

  • Rory

    The representaion of women in the most offending party, The Ulster Unionists, abysmally low as it is – is nevertheless a hell of a lot higher than the representation of women contributing to Slugger.

    Time perhaps we all had a look at ourselves.

  • Aaron McDaid

    O’Connor: it makes sense to have more women members, if only to attract more women voters.

    Any evidence that women are more likely to vote for women? I don’t think so.

    This isn’t the first time that feminists (not to be confused with women’s rights advocates) have let their paranoia run wild.

  • Glen Taisie

    Hopefully North Antrim elects it’s first female MLA in Orla Black

  • SuperSoupy

    Rory makes a great point. The level of representation in parties is poor, the level on Slugger’s probably poorer. If you look at the audience for any of our politics programmes or letter writers to papers you see that not many women are engaging at any level.

    I know SF implement positive discrimination policies, often insisting on a female candidate if more than one is possible or guaranteeing 6 places on the AC to women – and when only 6 run that means they are essentially appointees to roles men are in competition for.

    I disagree with these types of measures, instead of making it easier for those women entering politics to rise the emphasis should be on making the political sphere one that appeals to women.

    If I knew how to do that I’d be head-hunted for a fortune.

  • Aislingeach

    The problem with addressing the issue Rory brings up is that you’d really need to ask the women who don’t contribute to find out why…not an easy proposition for a blog, although there has been some discussion on here about that issue the odd time.

    Women, like men, do tend to vote for political parties that they believe listen to them and are concerned with advancing the issues they care about. One sign that a party is listening is that they have “people like me” in power or advisory positions.

  • Henry94

    Parties have been embarrassed into finding even grooming women who will join the game on the basis of the existing rules. Thus you end up with Blair’s babes, women who owe their position to male patrons and who dare not rock the boat. Convenient lobby fodder.

    The question is not how many women you have but how many women with original ideas. On that basis things are far worse that O’Connor is claiming.

    Does it matter? Yes and not just to women. Because the thing that keeps them out of politics keeps a lot of men out too. Politics is a game for obsessive compulsive egotists. In general such people are usually men but most men are not like that. So we don’t feel any more represented by them than women do.

    In my view the answer is term limits. If you serve two or three terms as a backbencher then that should be your lot. You won’t be missed. Give someone else a go. If you become a Minister I’d stop the clock for another two terms.

    Councillors should also be restricted to two or three terms.

    What we have is rule by people who are good at winning elections. For too many it is their sole talent.

  • BeardyBoy

    Surely it is up to women to put themselves forward – if they don’t they only have themselves to blaim, and is it not a bit of nonesense anyway? If women do not think someone will represent them surely they will not vote for them? It is therefore in a candidates interests to support womens issues (whatever that is!) in order to get their votes? I feel that this is all PC nonesense.

  • woman

    I don’t do party politics per se, trade unionism is my thing. A few years ago we had to get a white collar local ready for the first strike in their history. It was a male dominated environment, 85%/15% split, and several women came to the forefront, and have remained so ever since. I’m pretty sure all of them would say they’d never dreamed they would do what they did, and that their interest would remain, as usually feelings dissipate once a dispute is resolved. There are ways in which to engage women, but the sexist nature of politics makes many women reluctant to expose themselves to the kind of ridicule that men habitually dish out to them. Child care and family commitments are another reason. These days you wouldn’t see a trade union conference or training session without creches and babysitters. Political parties have a way to go yet.

    On a more general point of women in any male dominated environment, it’s irrelevant whether the ‘token’ woman there is there on her merits or not. What is more important is how she conducts herself in that environment (yeah I’m talking about flirting and sleeping with the boss and stuff like that), and whether or not she is the type of woman who wants to bring other women up with her, or she wants to be the ‘only one’ with men running around behind her kissing her ass.

  • ken

    I have spent all my days in factories and have never joined a union, i think i’ve made the right call.

    Just ask the large numbers of translink workers leaving the compay because of the failures of the tgwu to help them

    Ask the thousands of textile workers who received no help from the union when companies closed.

    Unions are meant to work for their members rather than try to protect their own jobs.

    Tossers the lot of them

  • woman

    Well done, Ken. On behalf of the union movement I’d like to say you made the right decision.

    By the way, I prefer closed shops myself. The dues we collect from the angry dont-want-to-be-a-member members go directly to our drinking fund for conferences.

  • Crataegus

    It’s simple most women don’t have the time to waste.

  • Future Irish President

    Alot of the sdlp woman candidates are very good and have the potential to be a significant part of the party in the future if not now.

    Some of those who are running along in constituencies with more well known representatives may well outpoll them simply because they are a new face and the other candidate just doesnt do it for them.

    There may be one or two shocks in this election and it I for one would welcome them.

    Sharon Haughey has a good chance of taking a seat that isnt theirs at the minute but there are many more within the party who will hold their seats or gain new ones – roll on the day when we have woman in power here as that might be the time we get something done for the good of the people.

    Men are in it for the power and do not have the compassion that is needed to sort Northern Ireland.

  • Nevin

    “Politics is just show business for ugly people”

    Maybe we haven’t got enough ugly women ….

  • MÓG

    Mick Fealty,

    I was making a simple point and I singled out the DUP because they are a massive offender in sexual discrimination. Iris Robinson is the only female in a large active role in the party.

    What is the question?

    Why are women not taking powerful positions in local politics?

    Perhaps they just aren’t interested. I think the radical nature of republican politics encourages women to participate for parties like Sinn Féin. I think young Protestant women see the bigotry of certain unionist politics as backward and embarrassing.

  • Iris Robinson is the only female in a large active role in the party.

    I think Arlene would slap the jaws of you for saying that, MÓG!

  • MÓG

    Arlene may be being touted as a future minister but I suspect the doc will keep her waiting another few years to see if he trusts her.

    A blow-in can blow out just as easy.

  • A blow-in can blow out just as easy.

    Oh, I agree entirely. I’m just saying, that if you said Iris was the only prominent woman DUPper, that Arlene would slap the jaws off ye!

    I wouldn’t fancy tangling with a Fermanagh woman. They’re all meat down there.

  • blogger

    The problem with the UUP is that they lost most of the high profile middle age group when the bunch defected back in 2003/4. Thus the UUP is running mostly older or very younger candidates. Most are still coming through and are simply too young to run yet.

    They did have 2 female MLAs who left to join the DUP, one as we know is still thriving, the other appears to have been dumped by the DUP in favour of male free presbyterians – says alot!

  • Isn’t it strange, even though that women make up only a minority of our MLA’s that:

    1)Writers like Fionnula O’Connor conveniently forget that many of the positions of power in Northern Ireland are held by women eg., Monica McWilliams is Chief Commissioner for Women’s (Sorry I meant Human) Rights,Patricia Lewesley is Children’s Commissioner and Nuala O’Loan is Police Ombudswoman.

    2)Women’s health issues receive much more funding than men’s even though men die younger.

    3)We have “Breast cancer awareness month”, “Violence Against Women awareness month” etc., but no awareness month’s for issues which predominantly affect men eg., “Suicide awareness month” or “Serious accident – at – work awareness month” or “Deprived of access to your kids awareness month” etc.,

    4)99.9% of the funding for domestic violence victims goes to Women’s Aid even though several two sex independent studies have shown that men make up approximately half of the victims, but there are no shelters or provisions for them.

    5)There are no concerns whatsoever about areas where men are under – represented eg., male primary school – teachers are almost extinct and fathers who get joint custody of children following divorce are about as rare as Union Jacks at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis.

    6)By all means debate equality issues but lets tell the whole story. Lets also ask why Fionnula O’Connor never writes a column questioning why women are so under – represented among the homeless, the bin collectors, the emergency services who go out in sub zero temperatures to restore power after a windstorm, the fire – fighters who go into burning buildings to rescue women and children etc., etc.,

  • woman

    Assuming all you’ve written is true, comeuptothefront, I’m trying to figure out what it has to do with the lack of involvement of women in politics. Could you help me out here and connect the dots for me? Or were you just having a wee rant because your girlfriend blew you out?

  • Reply to “woman”

    You say that you can’t see the connection between what I’ve written and the lack of women in politics. OK, I’ll run through it again, but this is the last time, so listen this time will you?

    1)Writers like Fionnula O’Connor bemoan the lack of women in politics but conveniently forget that women like Monica McWilliams, Chief Commissioner for Women’s Rights, Patricia Lewsley, Commissioner for Children and Nuala O’Loan, Police Ombudswoman occupy senior positions with very considerable political influence.

    2)If we are going to have a debate about where women are supposedly disadvantaged, we should also be willing to debate all the areas where men are supposedly disadvantaged. We regularly hear this debate about lack of women in politics but it is much rarer that we hear anyone debating areas which affect men such as why so many more men commit suicide than women, why so many more men suffer industrial accidents than women, why men die younger than women, why men hardly ever get joint custody of children in family law courts etc.,

    If we really want equality between men and women, we must deal with issues that affect women and issues that affect men equally. That is not presently the case, with issues affecting women having a much higher media profile, and consequently atracting much higher government funding, than issues affecting men.

    Every man and every woman over 18 in this country is entitled to a vote. If it was really divided along gender lines, then every woman candidate would get elected because she would get all the female votes.

    I think women in this country would do well to keep voting for men as the men currently in power seem to be bending over backwards to please women – I doubt if women could get a better deal from an all female government. They currently enjoy much better health funding than men, the family law and divorce courts completely favour women, school exams are designed to be girl – friendly – I can’t imagine a female dominated government providing any better for women.

  • woman

    You still haven’t connected the dots, and, with all due respect, I suggest it’s because you can’t. What you’re doing is ranting about every disadvantage, real or perceived, that you believe men face compared to women. That’s another argument for another day. I’m not dismissing your arguments on those issues, or saying there is no merit to them, but that in relation to this discussion they serve only to cloud the waters.

    Of the three examples in the political arena you cite, two of them are pure tokenism (they shouldn’t be but the reality is they are), and I’m sure you don’t need me to point out which two. You ought to be able to name thirty not three, but there aren’t that many, and so the few women who actively participate in politics and hold political office stand out. Sometimes some of them only stand out because they are token women in token positions.

    Since there are no indicators that women exercise their right to vote less than men, as far as I know, it is reasonable to conclude that there is something in the political sphere that is unattractive to women, or there are systemic obstacles, or hindrances, in place.

    From what I’ve read of your posts, and feel free to correct me if I’ve wrong, you’re not interested in increasing the level of political activism among women, and would probably prefer them at home, in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant (with your offspring naturally).

  • I Wonder

    “Or were you just having a wee rant because your girlfriend blew you out?”

    ..presuming that bloggers don’t regard blogging as a substitute for having a girlfriend…

    Woman, you need to be careful with such insinuations as it can lead (and has led) to your having your IP address traced and shared with other saddoes here.

  • the doc

    I think that Orla Black and Sharon Haughey will make excellent MLA’s.Some male politicians think that politics is a contest to see who has the mostt testosterone.There is no reason why half the population should not also have half the representation.Well done to the SDLP.

  • a watching woman

    Surprised Dawn Purvis hasn’t been mentioned in this debate as yet.

    While she hasnt been in position for long, I watch with interest as to how she progresses.

    It seems she is the only current female leader of a political party in the British Isles? While the PUP is a small party, it is interesting that they of all parties have chosen a female leader..actually living up to their name.

    I just hope she gets elected in East Belfast so we can see how this develops.

  • The Doc – of course, you’re now going to mention Anna Lo and Naomi Long, to show that you’re not just making a cheap partisan point on behalf of the Stoops?

    And what about Carál ni Chuilín? Only joking. 🙂

  • the doc

    Marietta Farrell,Mary Bradley,Margaret Ritchie and Dolores Kelly should all hold.

  • I Wonder

    It is a matter of regret to me that, despite what I’d like to happen, I can’t see Dawn Purvis being successful, as I do not believe David Ervine’es personal vote will transfer to her.

    I also believe that she doesn’t live in the constituency and though very able, I don’t think she’ll make it. She hasn’t had enough time since Mr Ervine’s sad passing.

    I do think Anna Lo has a chance, which I believe will make South Belfast the only constituency with 2 female MLAs? Also Naomi Long will surely be a shoe-in for Alliance’s leadership if Mitchell McLaughlin pushes David Ford out in south Antrim?

  • the doc

    what about Arlene Foster & Michelle Gldernew in Fermanagh &S Tyrone ,Marietta Farrell & Norah Beare in Lagan Valley,Margaret Ritchie & Catriona Ruane in South Down?
    I wonder

  • I Wonder

    Sorry, doc, you’re right: was unduly focussd nearer home 🙂

    I try to keep Arlene and Caitriona out of my minds eye as much as possible for aesthetic reasons. 🙂

  • Descendancy again

    Women have had the franchise (at the Westminster level) on equal terms with men since 1928. If there is still a problem with female participation in politics – which there isn’t – it really isn’t the fault of men, phallocentric models of social organisation, impersonal historical forces, finance capital, or any conspiracies run out of the Vatican.

  • I Wonder


    Hve you seen or read how women were treated in the last Assembly? More power to those women who are aware of that – and are yet prepared to put themselves in that position.

    Bob McCartney’s treatment of Dawn Purvis (reported here on Slugger) was an utter disgrace. Good riddance to the arrogant ignoramus.

  • Descendancy again

    Have you read any of the cr*p that’s thrown at merely Bob on just this site, let alone the treatment he suffers throughout wider Northern Irish political discourse? Either argue against incivility in politics, or, accept that women are going to have to put up with exactly the same rubbish that men have to. Don’t, please, argue that women deserve special treatment because they’re women.

  • the doc

    I agree,if politics were conducted in a more civillized manner perhaps a lot more talented women may engage.Look at how the NO corner treated people like Monica McWilliams,inferring that she should shut up (because she was a woman & because they felt threatened by her contribution).Politics is about people and about having a passion to make things better for everybody.My point was that passion fuelled politics and testosterone fuelled politics are not the same.

  • Future Irish President

    Bring it on for the women – a bit more compassion and genuine support for people is what is needed in Northern Ireland to sort this nonsense out.

    Good luck to them all!?

    I hope some of them surprise a few of you politicos and take the seats and do not simply become “also rans”?

  • woman

    [i]Woman, you need to be careful with such insinuations as it can lead (and has led) to your having your IP address traced and shared with other saddoes here.[/i]

    Here at Slugger’s, I Wonder? Doesn’t bother me, IP addy tracing is the net equivalent of empty vessels making the most noise, a two year old with learning difficulties can do that. The people who do it just do it to scare others and make them think they have some tech savvy they likely don’t possess. Thanks for the heads up, though, a bit disappointing as I thought Mick kept better company these days.

  • I Wonder


    Those involved occasionally contribute here although they run their own site where articulate women are as welcome as they are by the NO bloc in the Assembly(as doc pointed out above.) Its fascinating though the feeding fenzy which erupts whenever a woman has the audacity to challenge the traditional conservative Irish male.

    Slugger carries a motley crew, including apparently at least one person who finds Bob McCartney a sympathetic character. 🙂

  • Reply to “Woman”,

    You say wwith regard to my last post: “You still haven’t connected the dots, and, with all due respect, I suggest it’s because you can’t.” With all due respect to yourself, there were very few dots to connect in the first place. It appears that you don’t understand my straightforward argument that there are various inequalities between men and women today, but that we only ever seem to hear about those where women are supposedly disadvantaged. I am saying, if we are to debate this topic, we should also do it in the context of all the areas where supposed disadavantage occurs, rather than hearing the usual feminist argument than women are victims of male oppression.

    There is nothing stopping women writing letters to newspapers on political issues or contributing to Slugger O’Toole. Yet the vast majority of political letter writers and Slugger contributors are men. Why is this? Why, if women are all chomping at the bit to take up electoral office, are they not contributing to the political discussion in greater numbers? This is not due to any form of discrimination, its just that women aren’t as interested in politics. It appears that a number of women prefer to play the victim card and say that political parties are a “cold – house” for them, rather than getting out and joining one and having their say. There’s a lot of power in playing the victim in today’s society.

    You say that “it is reasonable to conclude that there is something in the political sphere that is unattractive to women, or there are systemic obstacles, or hindrances, in place”. This is the crux of your argument ie., you believe that women are victims of male oppression.

    To claim that women are prevented from taking part is merely to class them as victims and to class men as oppressors. This is what I find most hideous about this debate, because it is blaming men for the fact that so few women are active politically. What is stopping more women joining poplitical parties? If you don’t join a political party, you can’t be elected on their behalf. It appears that certain women would prefer that women remain under – represented because they can then use this as yet another example of how disadvantaged women are in our society. As I have repeatedly pointed out in my two previous posts, it is men who suffer the more serious disadvantages in Northern Ireland today.

    You say that two of the posts occupied by Monica McWilliams, Nuala O’Loan and Patricia Lewsley are “pure tokenism (they shouldn’t be but the reality is they are), and I’m sure you don’t need me to point out which two”. None of these posts are pure tokenism, as their generous salaries reflect. Each of these people exert a high degree of influence.

    You suggest that I’m “not interested in increasing the level of political activism among women, and would probably prefer them at home, in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant (with your offspring naturally)”. Methinks you have been reading one too many feminist magazines or attending one too many Women’s Studies classes.

  • I Wonder


    “Methinks you have been reading one too many feminist magazines or attending one too many Women’s Studies classes.”

    I think the set of attitudes revealed by that knee jerk “argument” shows precisely the sort of systemic influences highlighted by someone with a level of perceptive capability that you may some day aspire to.

    How incredibly fucking patronising you come across. Take a leaf from your chosen nick.

  • Reply to “I Wonder”

    There’s a general rule on this site that you play the ball, not the man. Maybe you’d bear that in mind before you launch a personal attack on me. Nevertheless, thanks for your contribution.

  • I think you have to believe that if someone thinks that Bob is a sympathetic charachter then i have the answer.
    It’s BOB lol

  • woman

    This discussion is about the low level of political activism among women, not your constant griping about what you perceive as discrimination against men, staywhereyouare. There are issues of discrimination against men, and you have highlighted some. They do not, however, relate to the topic at hand. You are simply attempting to cloud the waters by raising them at this point, and merely indulging yourself with your own perceived persecuted status.

    [i]This is not due to any form of discrimination, its just that women aren’t as interested in politics.[/i]

    And even if what you say is true, the question must arise as to why that is. Part of the reason can be found in your last statement:

    [i]Methinks you have been reading one too many feminist magazines or attending one too many Women’s Studies classes.[/i]

    I’m surprised you didn’t just come right out and call me a man-eater, ball-busting, bull-dyke. It’s what you meant to say, innit? Maybe not, but it allows me the licence to introduce the topic of femininity and female sexuality into the discussion. In my opinon, the perceptions around femininity (and it’s kissing cousin, female sexuality) are one of the systemic hindrances to women not being active in politics, and even in not showing an interest in being active. Women are aware of the stereotypes, consciously and subconsciously, and one of the stereotypes is that women in politics are dykes, man eaters, ball busters, and unappealing to the opposite sex.

  • Woman,

    I encourage you to give up your victimhood. You speak about “the systemic hindrances to women not being active in politics”. You don’t seem to be able to see this situation except through the eyes of a victim who supposedly, along with all the rest of your gender, are systematically hindered from engaging in political life.

    Can you therefore explain why so few women contribute to Slugger O’Toole, the main political blog in Northern Ireland? Are men preventing them from logging on and entering a comment? Why do relatively few letters to Irish newspapers on political issues come from women? Are men preventing them from sitting down to write?

    Rather than preventing women becoming politically active, most political parties would warmly welcome new female members, but like the female bloggers and letter writers, relatively few are coming forward. Its hardly likely that loads of would – be female MLA’s will suddenly step forward when its so difficult to get women to even join the Slugger discussion or to write a letter on a political issue to a newspaper. It is very wrong however, to use women’s reluctance to join political parties and to engage in political debate as another opportunity to berate men for their alleged discrimination.

    If loads of potential female MLA’s were currently sitting at home, chomping at the bit to express their political viewpoints, but frustrated from doing so by male oppression, do you not think they would find some other way of getting their opinions across? Would their zeal to express themselves politically not lead them to join Slugger or write a letter on their political views to a newspaper?

    The fact that so few women do so indicates that there aren’t that many frustrated female future First Ministers about. This casts serious doubt on your argument that there are lots of women out there who are suffering from “the systemic hindrances to women not being active in politics”. Instead it indicates that women are not involved in politics for the same reasons as they don’t join Slugger or they don’t write to the papers – they choose not to.

  • woman

    [i]You don’t seem to be able to see this situation except through the eyes of a victim who supposedly, along with all the rest of your gender, are systematically hindered from engaging in political life.[/i]

    Since I engage in politics (unless you think being a union activist doesn’t constitute engaging in politics), that was a pretty daft statement to make, gototheback.

    [i]It is very wrong however, to use women’s reluctance to join political parties and to engage in political debate as another opportunity to berate men for their alleged discrimination.[/i]

    “Discrimination” is a word I use cautiously and advisedly. That’s why I talk of systemic obstacles or hindrances, rather than systemic discrimination. There are wider cultural issues, and I’ve already given an example in my previous post of one, which hinder women from actively participating. These cultural issues don’t magically disappear once a woman is in the ‘club’. Favouritism (a word I use more frequently than discrimination) is rife, and while those who engage in it tend to be sensitive to being tagged with the discrimination label, they seem utterly unable to equate favouritism with discrimination.

  • Crataegus

    What I often wonder is what drives people to make them want to be an elected representative? What self loathing, what personal insecurity and need to prove themselves drives them? Who in their right mind would put up with the abuse and petty nature of most of it?

  • Bill

    How Rwanda must look down on nI.

  • I Wonder


    Who in their right mind would put up with the abuse and petty nature of most of it?

    As for politics, with blogging… 🙂

  • SuperSoupy

    SF delivered 7 female MLAs (25%), many more than any other party. The SDLP putting them as candidates in unwinnable seats may have made this story but their delivery was pathetic.

  • woman


    I’m not sure, but Sinn Fein may have the highest percentage of elected women than any other political party in the world??

    It is to their credit that they do so. While it may be perceived as wrong for ‘positive discrimination’ to deny capable men opportunities at the expense of a less capable woman (and it inevitably happens sometimes), in the long run it doesn’t matter too much as long as the policy attracts capable women, and it is balanced by all the less capable men who attain positions through favouritism (that inevitably happens more often).

    Women need to see other women in there, and not just as tokens, to enable them, or maybe to empower them is a better word to use, to come forward. It should balance out in the end.

    [i]The SDLP putting them as candidates in unwinnable seats may have made this story but their delivery was pathetic.[/i]

    Tokenism at its finest perhaps.