Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Glass Cellar

It's that time of the year again: the CSO have just published Women and Men in Ireland 2010. The headline from their press release says it all: 'Women live longer but earn less than men'. It's funny when you think about it: is the reader supposed to be annoyed to learn that women earn less than men, or that men die younger? I'm guessing the former to judge by the media coverage. I certainly haven't seen any EU funded advertisements on buses drawing attention to the mundane fact that European men die five years younger on average than Euopean women. Another one of those 'manority' findings I guess.

In fairness to the CSO their report does provide a 'balanced' guide to gender realities in Ireland - if you read beyond the press release. You'll learn that some women apparently have to deal with a glass ceiling when it comes to attaining influential positions in business, government and other centres of power. But you'll also learn that many men have to deal with a glass cellar: they are massively more likely to end up in prison, on the dole queue, or in an early grave than women. Now you might think that the EU would be worried about this. I can see the ad campaign now: 'are our lives valued the same?'. Then again, perhaps not. Indeed I question the value of reports such as the CSO's. I'm sure there's a statutory requirement for them to produce it: and I'm sure they have many other things they could more usefully spend the resources on.

But despite the clear evidence that men get a lousier deal than women in practically all domains for which there are measurements, the focus is not on the glass cellar but rather remains firmly on the glass ceiling. Take the recent demands for quotas for female TDs in the run up to the general election. There is even a campaign group - The 50:50 Group - who want gender parity in the Oireachtas by 2020. Amazingly, what advocates of quotas never address is the simple fact that women make up the majority of the electorate in Ireland. As they do in every other democracy in the world. They have done in Ireland since 1922. So if women actually wanted to elect female TDs for being female they would have not only secured parity in the Oireachtas by now, they would have formed a majority of TDs long ago. They could do the same in every other democracy. But they haven't.

Ultimately what those demanding gender parity are claiming is that, ironically, women are different from men.  On the one hand we are told that women are the same as men and therefore just as capable as doing the same job (being a TD); and on the other it seems that women are different from men because their absence from the Oireachtas means that those better able to represent women (i.e.: women TDs) are not able to do so. Confusing. I think Simon over at Dossing Times captures it well:

Can men represent women, or indeed can women represent men?
If indeed the answer is yes, then women are not under-represented in parliament. As a male TD can serve the needs of a male constituent as well as a female constituent. If the answer to that question is no. Then we have a situation that states that men can not represent women and women cannot represent men.

So by definition men can’t elect women and women can’t elect men and thus we would require gender specific ballot papers. Robbing us of the idea that we are a democracy that elects citizens to represent citizens, instead having a genderocracy.
Taking the gender parity idea to its logical conclusion should surely require that we don't elect TDs, but rather that instead we select a representative sample of adults at random from around the country to ensure that 'everyone's voice is heard'. Which, come to think of it, might well be an improvement on the way we do things at present...

But back to the glass ceiling/glass cellar dichotomy. Why is that the focus remains on the 'disadvantages' experienced by women than by men? After all, women have had the vote, equal pay legislation and every other legal right identical to men for several decades now. Catherine Haskim has even argued that 'feminism has won' and that it's time to move on to more pressing issues (racism is one she identifies at a European level).

She's right of course. But what she overlooks is that feminism isn't a campaign: it's an ideology. What's more, it's a victim ideology as explained by Adam Kostakis:
Once a period of consciousness-raising has propagated the belief that the members of a group are - by their essential nature as members of the group - victims, the group shall pursue two objectives:

(1) To equalize with the designated 'enemy' group;
(2) To forge their own 'victim identity,' separate from and unaccountable to the 'enemy' group.

You will notice that, while the first objective brings the 'victim' group closer to the 'enemy' group, in terms of status, expectations, autonomy, etc., the second widens the gulf between them. The first objective, we are told, will unite us in our common humanity, and bring about liberty for all, and other nice things like that. But as soon as we get close to this, there tends to be a drift towards proclamations of the importance of the second objective. Nothing will ever be enough to satisfy the 'victim' group, because they view themselves as essentially and inherently the victims of the 'enemy' group, regardless of what may have changed in reality. A victim ideology is anti-contextual, and its followers - the self-designated 'victims' - shall never see themselves as anything but. Their victimhood is affirmed in advance, and the facts must be made to fit the story. In other words, they will spin any situation into one where they are most harshly treated.
If you think he's exaggerating take a look at this quote from Hillary Clinton, from a speech on domestic violence in 1998:
Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat. Women often have to flee from the only homes they have ever known. Women are often the refugees from conflict and sometimes, more frequently in today’s warfare, victims. Women are often left with the responsibility, alone, of raising the children. 
Did you spot it? Sure husbands, fathers and sons get killed, but the women have to become refugees and raise the children alone! Perhaps the CSO wrote her speech? 

Unfortunately this is why the glass ceiling always gets more exposure than the glass cellar. The victim ideology that drives contemporary feminism is only focused on the 'disadvantages' experienced by women. Why the scare-quotes around disadvantages? Because the agenda around the glass ceiling is about a minority of women wanting to attain positions of power just like a minority of men. In case you haven't noticed: whilst it's mainly men at the board table and the cabinet table, it's mainly men who never get to sit at those same tables. But their needs don't matter apparently. As Adam puts it in another post, feminism is the project for increasing the power of women. Be it political, economic, judicial or cultural power.

And the CSO's report suggests that their project is progressing very well indeed.


  1. Brilliant analysis, Gerard. Well done! Wish I had written it myself.

  2. Brave but accurate. Although I wonder if we'll ever see this kind of discussion in the mainstream media?

  3. Very insightful critique, Other than possibly john waters, nobody else will subject these "everbody except White, middle-class men are disadvantaged, unintegrated, Ill educated" reports. We have move on beyond this prevailing orthodoxy.

  4. I’m often to running a blog and i actually appreciate your content. The article has actually peaks my interest. I am going to bookmark your site and maintain checking for brand new information


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