So, at Antigone we’re committed to talking about women and politics and to working towards the equal representation of women in politics. For this reason, I should be very happy about the new Quebec cabinet which is composed of 50% women right?
Well, first of all – women actually lost seats in the Quebec election. Quebec, which previous to the election lead provincial legislatures in the representation of women in politics with 30.84% fell to only 25%. Furthermore, let us close look at this picture:
Notice anything? Although there are a nice representation of women… there is a very paltry representation of any other minority groups. Here’s the problem then with the drive for more women in politics.
Although I am thrilled that people like Stephane Dion are taking women in politics seriously and making a concerted effort to increase women’s involvement – what about the other minority groups that aren’t being represented either? And what about women who belong to more than one of these minorities? Efforts to get women involved in politics that ignore other minority groups’ lack of power within the political arena are thus problematic. Why are women so special? What about visible minorities? People with disabilities? Immigrants? The GLTBQ community? And how can we have proper representation for average Canadians if the political sphere continues to be a classist organism, in which the majority of people who come to power are from the upper class or upper middle class?
While I don’t think that positionality necessarily means that you will represent the identity group that you belong to, many studies have shown that women, for example, on average vote differently than men and advance legislation with different values. This is less a product of the ‘inherent’ differences between men and women and more a product of life experiences. It helps when talking about reproductive rights to actually have someone with a uterus in the room. Similarly, when talking about immigration, it gives you a different perspective to have the opinion of an immigrant on the matter.
When I spoke with Kim Campbell, one thing that she said that struck me is that we have to figure out the type of person we want in politics and then work towards making politics accomodating to them. I think this is an important piece of the struggle. In order to get more minority groups active in politics and representative of the groups that they belong to, we have to first decide that it is worthwhile to do so and then the different parties must seek such candidates out.