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[- Women in Politics
By Aileen, Section Filter It Yourself!
Posted on Sat Apr 24th, 2004 at 02:15:42 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
Filtered through many years of involvement in organizations promoting more women in leading positions

This Sunday we have elections in Austria for the office of federal president. The two candidates are Heinz Fischer from the Social-Democratic party and Benita Ferrero-Waldner from the conservative Austrian People's Party (OeVP). Ferrero-Waldner is probably most familiar from photos of national representatives, where she is invariably found, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, batting her heavily mascaraed eyelashes at the camera, trying to smile coquettely without smearing her lipstick ... Isn't that a terrible thing for a feminist to write about another woman? Maybe it is the case that any claim can be made in an election campaign, but it infuriates me the way Ferrero-Waldner is trying to play the "we need more women in politics" card. Why would anyone vote for her, just because she is a woman? Do we really need more women in politics? Like this?


[ --------------------------------------------- ]

Over 100 years ago, in 1895, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was criticized for publishing The Woman's Bible, because it was feared that this would deepen the rift in the women's suffrage movement: more and more Christian women were joining the movement to promote more traditional "feminine" values in public life, and a controversy had resulted about whether it was more important to have the support of as many women as possible, regardless of their motivation, or to question the long-range goals of women's suffrage from the start. The Woman's Bible, including commentaries from international scholars, was intended to prove that the bible and Christian tradition throughout its history provided the primary foundation for the oppression of women, so it was feared that this publication would only alienate the Christian supporters of women's suffrage. Encountering Ferrero-Waldner's election campaign posters every day as I walk to my office, promoting her "feminine" influence, I think Elizabeth Cady Stanton was right and I wonder whether we have even come one step further today.

Some years ago, in the midst of a scandal about women members of parliament being sexually harrassed by their male colleagues (which ultimately proved more damaging for those harrassed than those doing the harrassing, so that there were no consequences and the situation has probably not improved today), the right-wing politician Joerg Haider claimed in one of his "beer tent speeches" that the only reason why Johanna Dohnal condemned this sexual harrassment was that she was "too ugly" for anyone to bother harrassing. The only consequence to this was that a horde of narrow-minded little men stumbled out of the beer tent with the conviction that any female they encountered must feel flattered by their drunken advances. Yet only a few years later, this same politician claimed that his party had done "more for women" by appointing the first woman vice-chancellor (at least until she started showing signs of an interest in liberating herself from his influence).

The OeVp, in coalition with Haider's right-wing FPOe ("Freedom Party"), also claims to have done "more for women" with the institution of a childcare allowance - which ultimately makes regular employment even harder now for women with children. And now Ferrero-Waldner claims it would be some kind of achievement to have a woman president.

Do we really need more women in politics? Politics promoting "women's interests"? Define "interests"? Define "women"?

[ --------------------------------------------- ]

Women in Politics | 5 comments
[new] fem neocons, fem resistance & discontents (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#3)
by GabrielPickard on Mon Apr 26th, 2004 at 04:20:55 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

Yea, i totally aggree with you Aileen.. It's the Condoleeeza Rice / Neocon problem that's coming to haunt us everywhere. "We don't hate black/hispanic/.. all those other different looking people.. hmm, and we're not really against women in high positions (though of course, there should be some limits..) -- as long (and only as long) as they play along."
In Germany, before the last parliamentary elections they had a big discussion in the conservative party(s) about wether Angela Merkel could be candidate for chancelor. There was a big block just bluntly refusing to have a woman in that powerful post. Dear-old asshole Mr Stoiber from Bavaria ended up being candidate and lost, mostly due to his wavey position towards the iraq-war - and because the Green party won a lot of votes after this one "catastrophic flood" in east Germany. Anyway, Frau Merkel is still around - and she has a certain machiavellian spirit, she's said to be very good at intrigue, so maybe she'll manage to push-aside Mr Koch..
Concerning the more representational post of the president, i've noticed that the party that was going to lose (due to the ration in the two legislative bodies that choose the president) would always put forth a woman, whereas they would always nominate men, as soon as they had a real chance..

Concerning the problematic intra-feminist dynamics (or whatever you might call them).. I'm not sure (and it's not really my responsibility), but i think that the project of full instituional equality will not succeed. Why? Possibly because or society simply doesn't work that way.. Blame it on patriarchy, blame it on women not getting their act together, whatever. The fact is that this society will not change, unless it is changed - and that is not an easy bottom line.. ;-}

To return to a more personal level - I've noticed a latent inability in working with women (which i might be outgrowing slowly), just in my daily stuff, local activism, small projects. Women would be absent or few. I think it's a system of implicit exclusion - at discussions over a joint, or boys hanging around screens. This may be connected with growing up in a small town - but i have the feeling that quite a few people simply don't grow out of those exclusionist stages. I guess they don't teach you how to deal with gender-issues..

So how do we mediate situations in which the necessary social change? I believe there has to be quite a radical change for women to come into their own.
I sometimes also have the feeling that some conventional methods in movements seem to work fairly well with women's integration, just because they are in a narrow, vanguardist setting - but i'm no expert :-}

What does this idea of radical change sound like to you? Irrelevant, boring, or undefined? ;-}
cheers, Gabriel.

[new] of cabbages and puppets (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#1)
by amy on Sun Apr 25th, 2004 at 07:06:24 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

i'm somehow obliquely reminded of my old stepford wives post.

i know next to nothing of austrian politics unfortunately, but sounds to me like ferrero-waldner could be a party puppet (political party, that is...) then again, i guess most politicians are party puppets of one sort or another. i'm curious though, is she really like this, or do the party spin doctors pick out her lipsticks for her?

or, maybe she's just a stepford wife after all, joining the whole, happy beer-tent stepford family...

# begin amy's sig
-- Discordia is nice.
# end amy's sig

  • a fine lady by Aileen, 04/25/2004 01:40:42 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME (none / 0)
Women in Politics | 5 comments

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