Enough with the Gender Political Quotas

Ricky Maman has a few choice words on the tendency of the media to “count women candidates” as though they need be nothing else.

The custom of media outlets and political parties to count the number of women on Knesset candidate lists does nothing to help women’s status. It merely makes political discourse shallower and harms the political standing of the women themselves

כמה יש לך ברשימה?; עליזה לביא (מימין) לוי-אבקסיס ופנינה תמנו שטה. צילום: פלאש90
Just filling a slot. MKs Aliza Lavie, Orli Levi-Abuksis and Pnina Tamano-Shata. Photo: Flash90

Lately, “counting women” in Knesset party candidate lists has become something of a national sport. The headlines scream: The Labour list has three women in the top ten! Kahlon has four (later knocked down to three)! Lieberman has two women in the top three, right after him! And the Likud? Only one woman in the top ten. Oh, the horror. It turns out that women are a highly desirable commodity in these elections, and the feminists are in Seventh Heaven. Finally a gender-based election!

A secondary form of this nation sport is “counting Mizrahim” and its cousin “counting people from the periphery.” Who are these women? That’s not so important. What do they support? What policies will they promote? What’s their professional background and worldview? Apparently none of this matters, so long as the 40% quota is filled.

So let me say something as both a women, a Mizrahi Jew and even as one from the Israeli periphery: thanks, but no thanks. I’m not interested in a woman MK just because she’s a woman or a Mizrahi just because they’re a Mizrahi. I prefer personal record before gender, worldview before ethnicity and political programs before residence. These are the things which actually affect civilians’ lives and I prefer that they be put front and center. What are the candidates’ socio-economic views? Where do they stand on defense and diplomacy? How do they intend to improve our lives? All these are more important than identity politics.

Identity politics also cheapens the women themselves. I don’t know the female candidates form various parties, but I assume that they are all serious people with organized worldviews and a determination to improve our lives. But thanks to identity politics, they are nothing more than a slot – in this case, women – to be filled and checked off the list. Men are all tagged with their particular policy tendencies – hawks and doves, capitalists and socialists, reformers and supporters of the status quo. And the women? They’re just women. The feminist revolution personified.

This is the danger of affirmative action, no matter how well-intentioned – it aims to eliminate prejudices and ends up confirming and cementing them. The overt identity-based quota system sends the message that female candidates – or anyone else in an identity slot – were chosen because they look good to the press, not because they actually have the political capability and clout needed of a public representative. Perhaps it’s time we stop referring to them as “women” and simply as “politicians” – then, perhaps, we will take them more seriously – as people, not window dressing.

English translation by Avi Woolf.

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