Today is the International Women’s Day. In a lot of countries this day has lost its political meaning and has become a bizarre mixture of valentine’s day and mother’s day where men are supposed to give women gifts. Nothing wrong with gifts, but I think finally awarding women basic human rights would be a better bargain. And equal representation. I.e. real gender equality. As in 50/50. In all areas all the time everywhere. But unfortunately that’s not even nearly the case. Far from it. And there’s so much statistics to back this up that there’s absolutely no room, none, zero, for doubt – Our world has a serious issue with gender equality. As in there is none to be found. Anywhere. Not even is our so-called “civilized western world”. We suck at it too. Massively.
One of the things that’s constantly being debated in our part of the world is the lack of female representation in parliament as well as in the corporate world. And a lot of possible solutions on how to attack this tremendous eye-sore of an issue have been discussed. Some pledge for a sort of self-regulation approach. As if it was somehow a pure knowledge issue. That people just need to be informed that hey, women aren’t retarded, and then everything will be ok. Eventually. Well, seems like we’ve been trying that for quite a while now and not a whole lot has happened so far. And in light of that very blatant fact, voices are being raised for affirmative action.
Affirmative action is not an easy question. Not an easy topic to agree on. There are so many aspects, so many things to consider. But essentially it all comes down to if someone should get a job or a position, even though there may be better qualified candidates, just because that person belongs to a specific group. And there have been a lot of objections raised against this approach. Rightfully so. Of course qualifications should be the determining factor. That is just the logical approach. The best person for the job should get the job. And I think this is the main objection against affirmative action. Another main objection has been the fear of a devaluation of competence, or the risk of the candidate chosen through affirmative action being discredited. Also a valid point. They are all very valid points.
But what all of these objections fail to realize is that we actually already have affirmative action. It’s actually been in place for ages: Affirmative action for white, heterosexual, middle-aged, middle class men. In fact it’s been a policy for so long that we somehow even fail to notice it and it’s only when other groups are to be included that it’s stated as a problematic issue. As long as it was just the withe men of a certain social background that were selected we were all fine with it, but as soon as someone points out that something seems to be lacking, that something being women, gays, people of color, yes, pretty much everything apart from white, heterosexual, middle-aged, middle class men, it’s all of a sudden a major issue. Because if we start taking other criteria into consideration we run the risk of devaluating ‘competence’. And again, devaluation of competence is a valid point, but the real problem is the definition of competence. What do we actually mean when we say ‘competence’? It must have something to do with a certain skill-set and knowledge that would make the individual equipped to do the job at hand, right? Well, one would hope so, but if we take a closer look at what all these men in power have, what actually constitutes that alleged ‘competence’ they posses and that candidates from the “minority groups” lack, it becomes embarrassingly clear that the mysterious term ‘competence’ actually equals white, heterosexual, middle-aged, middle class and equipped with a penis. Because that’s actually the only difference. It’s not like there’s a shortage of well-educated women out there. Or people of color for that matter. Or gay people. There’s actually no lack at all. If it would really be about skills or education. But it’s not. It’s about having a penis and being white and straight and having enough money. That’s what’s referred to as competence. And I think it’s a pretty safe bet that this world can do perfectly fine without that particular sort of competence being intact. In fact, we would probably be a lot better off with out it.
No, the disproportionate representation of women in positions of power has nothing to do with a lack of abilities, skills, intelligence or any thing of that nature, it has to do with definitions. With how the norm is constructed. And if the norm has a penis anyone who doesn’t will automatically be disqualified. By constructing the norm based on these criteria women are automatically excluded and defined as deviations. But isn’t it rather absurd to have 51% of the world’s population be defined as “other”? Doesn’t that seem just a tad illogical?
It’s absurd, it’s stupid, it’s illogical and it makes no fucking sense at all. But that’s exactly how the current world order is maintained. By repetition of ideals that have no foundation in reason. And it’s all based on not telling the truth, on not admitting how reality is actually constituted. We do have affirmative action, massively so, to the utmost extreme. We have a group of white, heterosexual, middle-aged, middle class men who keep reintroducing themselves in to every position of power, completely monopolizing all resources and all public debate. And they have been doing it for ages. Not by chance, not by coincidence, not by democratic elections, not by authority from god, but only by their own self-appointed authority with dedication only to themselves. And they have maintained this position by repeating various lies on why they are the only ones that could possibly have these positions, why they are the only ones equipped to execute the task of ruling, be it politically, financially or in any other way. It used to be god who put them there, today it’s competence, but in reality it’s just a refined form of nepotism.
Women aren’t stupid. Neither are people of color. Or gay people. Or poor people. They are just unfortunate enough to be born without ‘competence’. And due to the current definition of competence there’s also no way for them to ever achieve it. Nifty, huh? You take a concept with a very vague definition, and then you introduce that concept as a criteria for gaining influence and you begin using the results of the introduction of that criteria as additional definitions of the concept itself, while at the same time using these results as arguments for the correctness of the introduction of said concept as a criteria. Quite an impressive illusionist trick. Almost like magic. The only problem is that it’s unfortunately not seen as such, but rather as truth. Many people are so impregnated with this warped logic that they actually fail to notice just how distorted it is. The reproductive self-confirming mechanism goes unnoticed and we don’t understand that claiming ‘competence’ is what awards influence is no different from talking about authority bestowed by god, or the fairy godmother. It’s all a hoax, a bullshit concept that has lost all meaning it at one point might have had. And the only reason to hold on to it would be to keep all the “others” out. Those others that actually make up a majority of the world’s population. Could that be it? Could it be that that’s actually the whole point? That it’s all about maintaining the status quo, to hold on to the power? Yes, I would suspect so. Seems very likely. A plausible conclusion.
Yes, affirmative action is indeed a complex matter, but obviously not in the way it’s usually presented in the public debate. The real issue is that we actually already have it in place, but in an unregulated form. A form which is based solely on informal and unaccounted criteria. Criteria that are unofficial and open to interpretation. Because no, it’s not by chance the distribution of power looks like it does, it’s not random at all, quite the contrary. It’s perfectly in line with systems and structures that have been in place for centuries and that are still very much in place. And when we discuss affirmative action as a means to change these structures we need to be clear about the fact that it wouldn’t actually be a question of introducing a new concept, but rather to reform one that is already in place. So the whole question is incorrectly posed, it’s not about whether we should have affirmative action or not, but rather if we should replace the current criteria. And I think the only answer to that question is yes. Beyond the shadow of a doubt. Then, and only then, would the question regarding its existence be warranted, but it would be a question about its abolishment rather than its introduction.
Looking at the state of the world today I think anything we can do to reform and change the current power structures would be good. Making sure that we do something about the vast gender gap would probably be a massive, and also genius, step in the right direction. But the likelihood of the alleged self-regulating capacities of the current power structures ever actually generating any results and becoming more than a mere urban myth, is probably even less than zero. It’s not about being patient, it’s about being honest. And the truth is that nothing is happening. There’s still a massive unbalance. Not small, massive. As in huge, enormous. In 2010 there was only one single country on this planet with a 50% representation of women in parliament; Rwanda. 56,3% of the delegates in the Chamber of Deputies are women, and this is a direct result of having a firm affirmative action legislation put into place. The figure for the senate is 34,6% with the mandatory female part being 30%. For the rest of the world the average is 19,2%*. Pitiful to say the least. And if we take a peak into the boardrooms of major corporations the situation is the same; rows and rows of penises.
No, there is no self-regulating principle to be found and the all the talk about competence is just bullshit. And seeing as nothing will change unless we force it to, I think it’s about time we replace the current affirmative action criteria with some that actually make sense, and start telling the truth about the appalling lack of reason we have on this planet. It’s time to put an end to the rule of the white, heterosexual, middle-aged, middle class man and replace it with an actual, realistic representation of the people who inhabit this planet. 51% of us are women. So get the fuck out of our space!