[First published in Quadrant Online as Gender Quotas, Merit and Faux Equality.]
Since the outbreak of #metoo hashtagging in the Federal parliamentary Liberal Party, Peta Credlin (among others) has been promoting targets for Liberal women in Parliament. Simultaneously, she decries quotas as promoted by, for example, the Labor Party. Women, she says, don’t want a handicapping system for men; women want to win entirely on their own merits; women don’t want to walk into the party room aware that there were better candidates whose shoes they are not quite filling; etc, etc, etc. Women who are like Peta only want to get into Parliament by their own honest and honourable efforts.
What’s the difference between a quota and a target? A target has a handbrake. That’s it. The rationale of each is identical. It starts with the unchallengeable premiss: the country must have equal numbers of women in the Federal Parliament (and just about everywhere else, to boot.) A target is designed to achieve the same result, but more slowly, and with a little bit of wiggle room.
If the aim is the same, what’s the logic of claiming that targets are better? Your guess is as good as this one of mine. A quota forces the pace, and the women who are injected into Parliament suffer all of the detriments to self-esteem that Ms Credlin has sketched out (although they seem to manage it bravely.) A target, on the other hand, can be accompanied by a development program, which will bolster the skills, the confidence, and the network of the participating women. By the time the target dates roll around, they won’t be needed, because the women will be competing on an equal footing with the men.
I don’t know whether the thinking about targets actually ascends to the level of some such theory – any such theory – but looming behind this theory is an out-of-focus vision of the restored state of nature, with the elimination of all the handicaps that have been clamped onto women like so many electronic ankle bracelets to confine them to house arrest. In that wonderful day to come, women will realise their full potential and compete, unimpeded and uninhibited, with men. And if restored womanhood finds that its natural level is to have greater representation than men, well, let the lines fall in such pleasant places. It’s Rousseau in a pantsuit.
Whether elaborated or fuzzy, conscious or unconscious, a semi-androgynous utopianism underlies all thinking about “equality”: that women have all of the aptitudes, interests and drive of men, alongside what might once have been called “feminine” traits. Women lack nothing useful to men in the pursuit of careers, but they soften the edges of aggression and merciless competition, preferring a certain group consensus which, far from inhibiting, actually enhances the success of their enterprises. Women are just men, improved.
At the femmunist parousia, when every tear is wiped away from every woman’s eye, and women occupy at least half of the positions in every career in every field, who will be responsible for the manufacture of new humans? How will these new humans be fed, watered and sheltered? How will they be raised to become ideological clones of their perfect mothers; each perfectly un-straight, perfectly un-white-privileged, and, for the boys at least, perfectly non-toxically un-male?
It’s a ridiculous notion, and everybody knows it’s a ridiculous notion, yet no-one dares to connect the dots. While the species remains viable, women will never be equally represented in the workforce, thanks be to God. All of the high-profile women who agitate for “equality” understand this biological and mathematical inequality. What, then, are they agitating for? Far from being a cry for equality, their demand is for systematic, legislated inequality, of which they are the beneficiaries. For if, among those who pursue their careers with uninterrupted vigour, the ratio of men to women is, say, four to one, then the demand for equal representation at each level of management amounts to a demand that women be privileged for promotion in the ratio of four to one. Four times as many men as women will compete for every job, yet every second job must be given to a woman. You may argue about the ratio, but short of the abandonment of the very notion of raising a family, it will never be one to one. Femmunism, like its grotesque progenitor, will remain Orwellian. War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Inequality is Equality.