And Australian sexism again…

Does no-one see the danger in this? Apparently not:

  • RT @TJSKane: “@DanielAndrewsMP: no less than 50% of all future appointments to all paid government boards, & all Victorian courts, will be women”Onya Dan

No doubt many people would think of that as ‘progressive’, ‘enlightened’, and that I personally must be obscenely misogynist even for questioning it at all. But as one whose job it is to work on social-architectures at the big-picture scale – on whole-as-whole – every single alarm bell that I have has been set off by this.

Consider what that statement actually implies:

— The primary criterion for candidacy for such appointments is gender – appropriateness, competence or merit will all have lower priority than gender. Until the quota is filled, a more-experienced or more-appropriate male candidate must be rejected in favour of a less-experienced or less-competent female-candidate.

— Given that “no less than 50%” of positions are to be assigned to women, then wherever majority-rule applies – as it usually still does – then all government-board and court decisions will automatically include a female-oriented bias, whether conscious or not.

In other words, at the stroke of pen from someone who hasn’t thought about the real consequences, anti-male sexism becomes enshrined in law. (Yes, I know that most of its proponents would see it as ‘pro-female’, but for reasons I need to explain in more depth in a subsequent post – namely subject-based abuse as a female gender-stereotype – such ‘pro-female’ sexism is much more likely to be expressed in practice as merely anti-male than genuinely pro-female: obsessive male-blame rather than constructive female-empowerment.) And sexism in any form is Not A Good Idea…

(By the way, note that, by definition, it’s inherently sexist to assert or assume that the term ‘sexism’ only relates to things that might affect women. It’s seriously worrying how few people seem able to recognise that one very simple point…)

In case anyone still thinks that this is a good idea, they need to think again. Yes, there is a need to compensate for past errors, but to use an old phrase, “two wrongs do not make a right”, and sexism in any form is abuse. When the sexism is embedded in law, it becomes state-sanctioned abuse – literally, state-enforced oppression, with all that that implies. Not A Good Idea…

In case anyone still clings on to the delusion that this is a good idea, consider that once the precedent has been established, then there is nothing whatsoever to prevent any other special-interest group in the future from assigning themselves a similar legally-mandated legally-enforced majority. Stop and think carefully about the implications: which groups would you definitely not trust to have a permanent legally-mandated majority? Not such a good idea now, huh? Not A Good Idea…

Quotas in any form are Not A Good Idea – see any of the research on the inherent failures of predefined targets, for example. But if you must have a quota in a majority-rule context, make sure that it doesn’t automatically embed a majority – as in this case – otherwise you will get dysfunctional distortions in the outcomes.

(In a majority-rule context, a recommended-quota is very different from a mandated-quota, and a mandated “30%+” or “40%+” is very different from a mandated “50%+” – especially when the quota is on an arbitrary and contextually-all-but-irrelevant criterion such as gender. A recommended 30% or 40%, fair enough, I suppose; even a recommended 50%, if you really must; but a mandated 50%+, definitely not. Absolutely not. No way, not at all, not ever. Not for anyone, for any group, in any context – female, male, whatever.)

Yes, I’ll admit a certain personal-history here: for example, I’ve done a lot of research on gender-violence over the years, and too many people I know – female and male – have been on the receiving-end of a lot of female-violence that most people still seem to want to pretend does not exist. (That social-taboo against acknowledging female-violence – even the fact of it, let alone its true scale – should in itself set off some serious alarm-bells in this context…) Yet whilst I’ve had a few incompetent female bosses and suchlike during my aptly-named ‘career’, I’ve also had some very good ones – but although a gender-quota would (and did) clearly ‘help’ the incompetent ones to maintain their incompetence, it would merely have hindered the competent women, undermining trust and more. Everyone loses from that kind of mess – including the incompetent ones. Hence, to me, gender should play no part in any of this – and especially not if gender is to be used as the sole or primary criterion in a technical or social context.

For anyone with a longer sense of history, this whole mess reeks of the Bolshevik takeover of the Russian revolution. The term ‘bolshevik’ literally means ‘the greater’, or ‘the majority’: in fact the Bolsheviks were a tiny splinter-group whose only real skill was in their ability to rig majority-rule elections and meetings, faking a majority where none actually existed, and then assigning absolute rule to themselves. Once they’d established their rule, the purges began… Again, not a good idea – seriously Not A Good Idea…

So drop the sexism, please? – just drop it. Right now.

(An apology would be good, too – though I’m not so naïve as to expect one…)

Then start again, without the sexism, and think – and think carefully – about what outcomes we really want in our society.

Back to the drawing-board, I’d suggest?

More in subsequent posts on the ‘How-to’ of how to do that, anyway.

3 Comments on “And Australian sexism again…

  1. I always like to refer back to Jane Jacobs’s Systems of Survival on these sorts of issues. She talks about the two ethical codes, one a Commercial Syndrome, the other a Guardian Syndrome for everything supposedly non-commercial, like government. That immediately begs the question for guardians, “What are we guarding here?” It’s one thing to guard the delicate balance between liberty and fairness, and another to guard a social theory or experiment with an agenda.

    • @Doug: “That immediately begs the question for guardians, “What are we guarding here?” It’s one thing to guard the delicate balance between liberty and fairness, and another to guard a social theory or experiment with an agenda.”

      Yes, exactly – and it’s all too clear that those kinds of questions are being very carefully avoided by most of the players in that mess…

      A few decades back, the Australian ‘Equality Commissioner’ Anne Summers wrote a well-researched book called ‘Damned Whores and God’s Police‘, starting from two different historical views of women in Australia (an honest observation in the diary of one of the junior officers on the First Fleet (full of convicts) in 1788, that ‘the damn’d whores fel a fighting as soon as they came aboard, we moved to part them but the Captain said to leave them to it’, and mid-19thC claim by one of the women proponents of immigration that women would act as ‘God’s Police’ to define, control and enforce some sanctimoniously moralistic view of ‘civilisation’). Summers expressed concern that Australia should end up with one or other of those two extremes: in reality, sadly we seem to have ended up the worst of both – a self-styled ‘pro-feminist’ culture built increasingly around the untrammelled aggression of the ‘damn’d whores’ combined with the obsessive vanity and self-dishonest Other-blame of the self-appointed ‘God’s Police’.

      Probably the vast majority of this mess is actually female-on-female violence (the ‘damn’d whores’) and female-on-female sexism (the ‘God’s Police’), exactly as Summers warns in her book. But since it’s still almost totally taboo to even mention or acknowledge even the existence, let alone true scale, of either of those problems, the end-result is an ever-spiralling cultural addiction to male-blame. Which makes things not only an ever-intensifying hell for men in general, but increasingly worse for women too, since the ‘need’ to portray women as exclusive ‘victims’ of all men actively disempowers women. Which further feeds the self-dishonest fears that drive the whole mess. Kinda sad and pitiable, really, if we didn’t have to live through the all-too-real consequences…

      In Spiral Dynamics terms (see e.g. my posts ‘Dimensions of a Spiral‘ and ‘More on ‘Dimensions of a Spiral’‘), what Australia is going through right now is classic dysfunctional-Green: a self-selected ‘in-group’ declares that it has ‘special rights’ that are arbitrarily not available to others, and that some similarly-arbitrary group of ‘Other’ is assigned the role of scapegoat for all of the world’s ills. In extreme dysfunctional-Green, all possible groups except one assign themselves rights that are culturally denied to the scapegoat-group: ‘Untouchables’ in the classic caste-system in much of India, for example. In Australia, it’s easy to pick out the scapegoat-group by a simple process of elimination: the only group that are not assigned ‘special minority’ status (supposedly therefore inherently-deserving of special rights, privileges and support) on government forms and suchlike are white Anglo males – who are, of course, themselves a minority-group in their own right once all of the other ‘minority’ filters have been applied.

      A common response whenever I bring up these kinds of questions is what you’d expect: accusations of ‘protecting the patriarchy’, protecting my own privileges and suchlike. The short answer is ‘What privileges?’ – try my life for a while, and you’ll quickly find there ain’t much privilege involved… But the real point is that as a systems-thinker, to me it’s painfully obvious just how much damage those kinds of dysfunctions will cause – and because they don’t (and can’t) resolve any of the problems around which so much complaint is made, they’re inherently addictive, invariably spiralling down into deeper and deeper social-abuse. Such cultures can seem stable for a while, but are subject to violent convulsions or codependent-style flip-flops in which the ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’ roles change over but the overall violence upon which the culture is based essentially remains much the same. In short, Not A Good Idea… – and it’s literally tragic that most people still don’t seem able to get this point. Oh well.

      Just keep going at it, I guess, and somehow build a thicker skin to cope with the concomitant abuse…

  2. Hi Tom — With respect to your recognition of a scapegoating dynamic, I wonder if you’ve run across René Girard, for whom that dynamic is a cornerstone of his philosophy. I ran across his work because of convoluted connection to Peter Thiel. I am not well-versed in Girard’s work, but I thought it might be interesting, including his whole mimetic theory.

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