A great joke has been played on the mainstream media: they have bought, hook, line and sinker, into W****O**-type spin. They have been exposed as a bunch of followers, desperate to land the next hilarious 140-character-one-liner, to prove their relevance … without really understanding just how much they’ve been played.
Here’s a few of the problems with the “man ban” narrative which anyone with half a fucking clue about the functioning of political parties and society in general might have cottoned on to.
We don’t have a meritocracy even if you ignore silly identity politics
A lot of people are having a fucking whinge because oh my goooooooooooood, if you only select womeeeeeeeeeeeeen then what about the meeeeeeeeeeeeen. It should just be on merit! Merit alone!
Here’s the problem – and again, this is if you completely ignore things like sexism (or insist despite the mountains of evidence that they don’t exist):
When there are five candidates running in your electorate – say, four party candidates from National, Labour, the Greens and ACT, and one independent – do you honestly believe that they are objectively the five best possible candidates for your electorate?
I’m certainly no National supporter. I have significant issues with their policies, approaches, and general existence. Even I cannot believe, however, that Aaron bloody Gilmore was the best National Party member to run for Christchurch East, nor that he was the 56th best National Party member overall.
There are many reasons people get to stand for parties, or even as independents, in our electorates. There are many reasons people get placed on their party’s list. You honestly want to sit there and say that ~the people get to decide~ when there’s bureaucracy, factionalism, and a shitload of money at stake?
And that’s ignoring the obvious disparities of gender, race and class between “who’s in Parliament” and “who’s in New Zealand”. That’s ignoring the lifestyle constraints on MPs and other elected representatives – constraints which massively favour the privileged classes.
If you think “but merit” is an argument against gender-balancing strategies, you’re saying everything is already done on merit. Trying taking that thought through to its logical conclusion. Then look at yourself in the mirror and say “Wow, I’m a racist, misogynist piece of shit.”
There’s a difference between “making the grade” and “being the best”
Another illusion created by this argument is the idea that “the best” candidate should always win. But that’s not really how it has to go.
Let’s assume there’s a basic standard for party candidates – a history of party involvement, good local knowledge, basic electability (and see “not a fucking meritocracy” above for why this is more a wishlist than a reflection of the current situation in any party.)
If you have candidate A who’s lived in the area for ten years, owns the local fish’n'chip shop, has a great name for punning on and is pretty likeable, compared with candidate B who’s lived in the area for twelve years, runs a stall at the market selling organic salami, has a surname beginning with A and is pretty likeable … is the difference between victory and defeat going to be that significant?
Is it going to crush the hopes and dreams of your party to pick basically-electable Candidate A – who happens to be a woman, or a man of colour, or a person with a disability, or a woman of colour with a disability – over basically-electable Candidate B, who’s another white dude?
Sports metaphor: in order to try out for swim team, you must complete [swimming task A] in under 3 minutes. Kid 1 does it in 2:58. Kid 2 does it in 2:53. According to the “but merit!!!” arguers, you must choose Kid 2. Even though Kid 1 might have a better attitude, or comes from a shitty home and needs the self esteem boost.
They both passed the mark. Nothing wrong with taking other things into account after the fact.
(Of course, this raises a far broader, more complex issue of what constitutes “merit”. In my books, ensuring a diverse range of viewpoints is about merit, because we know that more diverse groups make better decisions. But that’s a whole book’s worth of discussion.)
Party conferences throw up ridiculous shit all the time
This is what got me. Apparently for a few brief wonderful moments yesterday afternoon, TV3 had a story up on their website about the Labour Party introducing a Bill to change the law around candidate selection in every electorate.
I can see where the mistake comes from: when everyone’s squawking about something, you probably assume it’s serious.
But … it’s really not.
It’s a draft policy remit from a party committee which is going to the conference to be discussed and potentially included in the party’s rules, which would allow individual electorates to voluntarily request that only women be shortlisted if the party council agrees on a case-by-case basis.
… fuck me, the fucking Amazons are storming the Bastille with fucking laser-cannons. Hide your menfolk!
It’s not even a fucking quota, people
The painful/hilarious side of this is, of course, that the UK Conservatives are looking to introduce much the same process - but without the voluntary factor. Yep, they’re going to mandate when winnable seats have to run women candidates. But figuring this out would require Googling, paying attention to UK politics or following Andrew Geddis on Twitter. Clearly, far to hard when you can just badger David Shearer into making stupid statements.
(Image from Hark, A Vagrant. No, not the Futurama one.)
ETA: Mod note: There are literally four other posts on this issue at The Standard, with hundreds of comments on them. You want to discuss sexism? Go here. Gender balance across other parties? Here. The proposal itself? Here. Other reactions? Here. I’m not interested in rehashing every single “Labour hates men” “this makes them unelectable” “lol sex changes” comment which has already been thrashed to death.
This post is about the misconceptions being thrown around in a media which copy-pastes from rightwing blogs. It’s not a place to propagate them.