John McGuirk on Gender Quotas and why he’s not Johnny Fallon’s kind of man

Here I am, sitting on my couch, just another one of Jonny Fallon’s whining, moaning, whinging, man wallowing in self-pity about gender quotas (at this point, my other half looked over my shoulder and said “well, at least you’re self-aware”). There are better ways to spend a Friday evening than writing about this issue, but any argument so full of the kind of man-bashing, feminist-appeasing nonsense designed to win approval from the right kind of people on twitter as Jonny’s was deserves an immediate response – so here it is:

Is it whining to ask what gender quotas are supposed to achieve?
“No”, I hear you answer, “it’s just stupid”. Gender quotas, after all, are supposed to achieve equality. To bring us to a promised land where our parliament reflects our people. Where womenfolk are finally able to wield the kind of common sense approach to policymaking that only the female brain, with its admittedly superior logic, empathy, and reason can conjure. Where the patriarchy is finally crushed underfoot and the tyranny of the y chromosome consigned to the dustbin of history, and all that palaver.

I have a number of questions about this, so let’s take them in turn:

1) What would women do, legislatively, that men wouldn’t? What laws are not being passed today because of the absence of women?
Now, that question has two possible answers – either there are laws that would be passed because we had more women in parliament (and for no other reason than we had more women in parliament) or there are no such laws that would be passed as a result of quotas. If no such laws exist, then the whole exercise is pointless. If such laws do exist (and let’s face it, a recurring argument for quotas is that the Dáil would care more about, for example, childcare) then quotas are, in essence, rigging the system to produce outcomes that the electorate themselves would not freely have chosen in the absence of quotas. To put it another way, putting a quota for trade unionists in the parliament, or a quota for members of the catholic church in parliament, would surely be opposed because doing so would completely rig the system in favour of those groups and impact legislative outcomes. So, why then would we have a system that, by the admission of many of its own advocates, would rig the system in favour of outcomes preferred by the elite white middle class feminists who would be, mainly, the women who’d actually benefit from quotas?
So that’s question one – just a minor whiny quibble about why we’re contemplating the rigging of our democracy in favour (allegedly) of certain policy outcomes without a debate.

2) Why are women so bloody special?
No, seriously – why are women so special? I mean, I keep getting told that the point of feminism is that men and women should be considered and treated equally, and that there are no differences between us. I wholeheartedly agree – and therefore I’d submit that the truly feminist position is to judge people on the content of their characters and brains, and not the contents of their underpants.

To put this in more feminist-friendly tones, if we’re going to give special legislative protection to an underprivileged group, then why are we choosing that group on the basis of their genetics and not, you know, their privilege? You know what I think will happen with quotas? I think we’ll replace half of the middle class white privileged white men with middle class privileged white women whose only claim to a quota is that they’re there to “represent” half of the population who, they freely admit, would never have voted for them given a choice.
So if we’re to have quotas to ensure the election of people currently ignored by the electorate, why not the genuinely underprivileged? Why not travellers, or migrants, or, for that matter, middle class chaps whose tax bill is far too high and have no interest in paying taxes to subsidise the latest production in the Abbey theatre? If you want parliament to “look like society” as is your stated aim, then for the love of god pick something more ambitious than lengthening the queue for the ladies bathroom in leinster house.

3) Why is it wrong to feel cheated by quotas?
The entire premise of Jonny’s long whine about his fellow men was that by feeling cheated, we’re somehow showing ourselves up – even as he rushes around encouraging the erection of “no men need apply” signs on seats in the national legislature. There’s a reason that they call quotas “positive discrimination” – and that’s because it’s a form of discrimination that lets the politically correct feel positive about their own bigotry. The fact is that if you wish to deny a job to a man because he is a man, then you’re on exactly the same page as the old toffs in the Tory Party who thought that Mrs Thatcher wouldn’t be suitable because she was a woman. That you feel good about your bigotry and sexism doesn’t make it any less bigoted or sexist, it just makes you that bit more smug.
So, there it is – a lengthy whine about quotas.

Is there sexism in this society? Sure there is. But you don’t solve sexism with more sexism, no matter how many retweets it gets you, Mr Fallon.

  • David Crookes

    Yes!

  • AndyB

    My issue with quotas is that if I don’t get a job, I want it to be because the successful candidate demonstrated their ability to do the job well better than me.

    I understand fully why there are quotas, because of historic imbalances either due to failure to apply or sheer bias on the part of the decision makers, meaning that people – be it women and catholics in particular, or any other group – have not been represented in civic society in the way that a colour/gender/religion-blind society ought to see.

    However, the question that quotas raise is do two wrongs make a right? Is it fair to disadvantage a section of society because of the wrongs of their forebears?

    Answers on a postcard…