Recently a colleague of mine, Connor, wrote an article about how female politicians face challenges that their male counterparts don’t.
He used what I thought was a great phrase: “the axises of power are so disproportionately turned against women”.
However, Connor received a few comments criticising him for using that phrase, citing a number of positions of power that are currently held by women.
We have had two female presidents and two female Tanaistes. We have a female chief justice of the Supreme Court and an almost balanced Supreme Court bench with five men and four women. We have a female Attorney General. We have a female President of the District Court. We have a female Minister for Justice.
Obviously, these are things to celebrate. I think it’s also fair to point out that as other countries go Ireland is doing well in terms of gender equality. We’re currently ranked the fifth most gender equal country, the first non-Nordic country on the list.
We should also celebrate that we are the first country to have more female solicitors.
But this alone does not mean that women are truly equal.
We have had two female Tanaistes out of how many? We have a female Attorney General out of how many? We have a female Chief Justice out of how many?
How many female Taosigh have we had? How many female Ministers for Finance or Foreign Affairs have we had?
We can celebrate strides we have made but still acknowledge we have a long way to go.
Even just recently we have seen that if you are a female writer you are less likely to have your work represented. You are less likely as a woman to become a presenter of a radio show or to be invited on to a radio show as a guest. If you are a female economist you tend to be forgotten in place of your male colleagues.
You are also less likely to be chosen to run for office or to be elected.
Why is this? Why are women so disproportionately unrepresented within the public sphere?
You could either conclude that women are just not as good as men, to which I think the appropriate response is fuck you.
Or you could maybe accept, as the Abbey director Fiach Mac Conghail did, that perhaps systemic and unconscious bias tilt the system in favour of men.
It is telling that in response to this article a man will probably go “But how many more men died in WWI?” or say how men are treated unfairly in custody hearings.
Or perhaps they will threaten to hurt me for being an uppity bitch as they have done to so many other women who pointed out how unfair the system is.
They will go on the defensive.
If women were to be truly equal with men then men would lose their position of power and privilege and this is something they will fight to keep.
This response says more about inequality than those recent news stories do.
The most insidious of all of their lies is that women are no unequal, that it’s all in our heads.
Until we recognise that gender inequality exists we have no chance of changing it.