We Need More Women in Government
|Posted on July 21, 2009 at 10:22 AM||comments (1)|
Just read a great article about the need for measures to up the numbers of elected women, written by the head of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the the Status of Women. Don't know how long it'll be posted here:
So many people say, "We can't allot a percentage of elected seats to women" as if quotas were something terrible. Our voting system is based on geographical quotas so that certain areas of a province, state or country don't go under-represented. And yet we allow women, over half the population, to be chronically under-represented. If anything, your life is affected by your gender much more than by your locale.
Two answers to increase numbers of women: quotas and switching to a proportional system of voting.
|Posted on July 15, 2009 at 4:27 PM||comments (0)|
Just read about a new book called A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert. Can't wait to read it.
I feel in tune with the author because one of the ideas behind the book seems to be that despite the suffragists of 100 years ago being long dead, their spirit lives on in women today, especially so in the descendants of those early activists. (I've picked this up from a book review.)
I like to think that my feminist and socially activist projects are a direct result of being the great-niece of Militant Suffragette Gertrude Harding.
If you're interested in reading about Ms Walbert's book:
|Posted on June 6, 2009 at 12:50 PM||comments (0)|
The reason why I'm putting my activist energy into getting more women elected is that until women gain fair representation in government, we won't achieve social or economic equality. So much of what controls us is laws and policies.
About 80% of our lawmakers (in Canada, the US and UK) are men. Actually, when you consider that only those in top positions, such as premiers, PM's, presidents, heads of parties and committees, who get to make decisions, then it's close to 100% men. Until women have an equal say in government, we won't make quick headway in things like pay equity and domestic violence.
For example, the judiciary is appointed, in Canada (and I'm no expert) by premiers and PM's. They take advice from others but they get the final say usually.
So we have male political leaders appointing mainly other men to sit in judgment of still others who might have threatened to kill their ex-girlfriends or beaten up their wives. No wonder we see precedents in law set from a male perspective.
To see if my suspicions were correct, I clipped out newspaper articles in New Brunswick about sentencing for various crimes with and without a gender slant. Here's what I found:
1. A man stole an ATV: 3 months in jail.
A man punched and kneed his wife in the head: 1 month, served on weekends.
2. The same man who stole the ATV first broke into (it said "entered", so maybe it was unlocked) a stranger?s house to steal the car keys: 12 months.
With a baseball bat, a man beat his way into his ex-girlfriend?s house to push and punch her and to smash her walls and dishes: 8 months.
3. A man was convicted of drug trafficking. He was found with 26 ecstasy pills in his pocket: 4 months in jail.
Another man was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend by punching her in the face. No jail time. Just a conditional sentence.
4. A woman committed robbery with a syringe: 3 years in prison.
A 48-y-old man got a 15-y-old girl drunk then had intercourse with her after she passed out. Later the girl suspected what had happened, there was an investigation and he confessed. 1 year house arrest.
That's rape, right? Sex without permission. One year of having to stay in your house is the punishment here. I doubt New Brunswick is any different from most places in North America and the UK.
We have centuries of precedents in law set from a male perspective. It seems that we punish minor crimes against property more harshly than minor violence against people, and crimes against strangers more harshly than crimes against family members. Am I wrong in this? But I've never heard anyone talk about it ? let alone complain.
If anyone has knowledge about sentencing comparisons, I'd love to know whether my conclusions are wrong. I'm about to promote a documentary that gives these examples and states the conclusions. If I'm wrong, I'd like to know now.
I'm not passing judgment (ha!) on male judges. And I imagine most women judges follow the precedents fairly closely because if they don't, the case goes to appeal, right? But if women had always been half the judges, then the relative harshness of sentencing would be much more in line with women's points of view. To me, crimes against partners and your own kids should be treated at least as harshly as crimes against strangers. And crimes of sexual assault should be punished much more harshly than crimes against property or minor drug trafficking.
And won't having half our judges be women slowly make a difference, as slightly longer and longer sentences are given for these offenses?
|Posted on June 4, 2009 at 3:37 PM||comments (0)|
Who wants to help in the movement to gain political equality for women in Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom?
Have you noticed how few women we elect to office? Canada has 22% women in Parliament, the UK 19.5% and the USA only 17% women in Congress. Yuk. Meanwhile, Germany has 32% elected women, Spain has 36%, Argentina 40%, the Scandinavian countries are all high, with Sweden at 47%, and Rwanda has 56%! (So many of their men were killed in the genocide, plus now they use quotas for women, as do most major democracies).
And our real decision-makers -- premiers, prime ministers, the president and VP, heads of parties -- are close to 100% men.
No wonder our democracies do such a lousy job of representing the varied views of women. Not just with obvious issues, such as pay equity, childcare, maternity leave, domestic violence and reproductive rights. Almost every law and policy affects women differently from men, eg. pensions and taxes, Employment Insurance and healthcare, divorce law and education. Anything that affects children and the elderly affects women differently because we're the main ones who look after them.
Until I started researching all this for a documentary I'm just finishing (called Menocracy), I didn't realize that most other major and many smaller democracies have more women elected than we three countries do. Canada is only ranked 46th out of 187 democracies for its percentage of elected women. The UK is 58th and the USA only 70th. That's ironic, considering that England used to boast that it 'spread democracy around the world' (like butter? spread with knives), the USA sees itself as the leader among democracies and we Canadians like to think of ourselves as among the most fair-minded and just people in the world.
How can our democratic systems be fair when over half the population has about 20% representation? There are many systemic reasons for this, but that doesn't mean we should accept it.
Anyone else as ticked off as I am at the dearth of women on city councils on up to state, provincial and national bodies? Women live different lives from men in many ways, and have points of view that many men do not. Yet we have only a tiny say in law-making and the judiciary. We need both genders at decision-making tables.
Should we settle for male domination in politics? I'm not going to any longer. That's why I spent 2 years making this documentary. Now if only I can find a distributor. Universities should buy it, but I'd love to find a broader audience. The trouble is that most men and many women glaze over with boredom at the mere mention of women and politics. I discovered that early on in my research.
Despite that cynicism, I'm hopeful that women are starting to be alerted to our lousy democratic system in bigger numbers. Even the media is printing more articles about the lack of women in office and of the possibility of changing our voting system to catch up to the 21st century.