On a side note before I begin I’m constantly coming up with ideas for blog posts and then life takes over and before I know it the topic is no longer ‘hot’ news and I feel my moment has passed. But on this occasion I’m going for it whether the topic is still hot or not!
So women only spaces… most people seem not to be a fan. Particularly when women in the Dáil have one. Much of the uproar started when Deputy Joanna Tuffy said she wouldn’t attend a meeting of female parliamentarians as it ‘excluded’ men. And the Deputy has every right not to attend. But using the event to knock down her female colleagues for a bit of self publicity is, in my book, pretty uncool.
The idea that marginalised groups would create a space for themselves to discuss issues that they alone face is nothing new. If we had black TDs and they had a meeting to discuss issues of racism would be screaming as loudly for them to invite their white colleagues? If a group of TDs with disabilities met to discuss the particular issues they face would we be insisting they have TDs present who don’t have a disability? Or if a group of gay politicians met to discuss the homophobia they experience would you insist that straight politicians be present? Honestly answer those questions for yourself.
In these scenarios, most people would say that these groups should have a space created by themselves for themselves to discuss the issues they face. In other countries this is an accepted part of politics with different caucuses for different groupings. But here in Ireland when a group of women decide to meet to discuss the barriers they face in a male dominated and controlled environment there is uproar. Can anyone see the double standard here?
In denying women a chance to have a closed space you deny that sexism exists as the argument is based on the fact that whatever they have to say they can say in front of male politicians. This is desperately unfair to the women who a) experience sexism and b) have to recount said experiences in front of colleagues who may indeed have been part of the sexism.
I agree with many of the commentators who say that in order to achieve political change male politicians will have to be included and that is true. But there is no reason why a woman only space cannot run alongside a cross party open meeting to move forward items on the political agenda that arise out of the discussion from the women’s space. The two concepts are not and should not be mutually exclusive.
Of 166 TDs, only 25 are women. We need to change this and in order to change we need to start somewhere. A women only space is the right place to do it.
And really what is everyone so afraid of? That 25 women in a room might actually achieve change? Well, I hope so – for all our sakes.
Blogged by Linda