The Women’s Council narrative on female representation is antiquated

Luxembourg’s newly-elected parliament is constituted of 48 men and 12 women. The Grand Duchy’s Women’s Council (CNFL) expressed its upset with that result, saying that women were not given sufficient platforms during the election campaign, particularly in a country where the voting system is so focused on individual candidates.

The CNFL therefore suggests that the coming government should be 50/50 when it comes to the distribution of ministerial posts, because, as we all know, sex trumps merit any day.

The Women’s Council is known for its hardline stance on anything that is considered a hindrance to the emancipation of women. The latter notion is fairly broad. The CNFL is one of the important proponents of affirmative action measures in high-level employment, and political: the council wants binding measures that put women in high-level positions in companies and the government.

However, by prescribing women with a group identity, it is actually just as patronising as the chauvinistic enemy is claims to fight. On the one hand, making the claim that “women need to be represented” we imply that women can only be represented by another woman, regardless of her ideas and political affiliation.

By the same token, you’d have to believe that the men in parliament are also the representatives of the men in this country. That of course is ridiculous: despite half the country being women, they made different choices than the CNFL would have preferred, and that is their prerogative.

Isn’t assuming that you know what’s best for a woman, as opposed to herself knowing that, the essence of sexism? Particularly in a Luxembourgish electoral system, in which political parties have already been compelled – through campaign finance laws – to alleviate female representation to 50%, the idea that even more affirmative action is needed, is just a display as how little the CNFL actually cares about democracy, and the choices that women make.

If women choose to prefer social professions (those that involve working directly with people) over a high-level investment fund manager post or top-level political spokesperson, and no barriers to entry were put up to stop them, then who is the Women’s Council to judge their decision? The inclusion of women doesn’t mean that all publicly visible positions need to be filled by 50% women – as opposed to having stay-at-home mums who do the dishes – but that in a free society women can choose between those options.

There is good news for the CNFL: the normalisation of women in high-level positions has already happened. The mayor of the city of Luxembourg is a woman (and happens to be the former foreign minister as well), the attorney general is a woman, the chief ombudsman, and, with Viviane Reding and Astrid Lulling, Luxembourg provided the European Union with some of its most notorious political faces. In fact, the most beloved head of state in Luxembourg is Grand Duchess Charlotte, who is praised for her role during the occupation of this country.

Luxembourgers don’t reject the idea of women in important positions. They simply voted on political affiliation and merit, and the result is in. And this also does not mean that voters think that women don’t deserve high-level positions in government, but that out of the elected people, most happen to be male.

We cannot fundamentally undermine the system through which we elect representatives, just so that the Women’s Council can declare a major success. And if the Council insists that it is completely apolitical in its support for quotas, we could suggest a composition of the Chamber of Deputies, filled by 50% Marine Le Pen-style women, and would likely discover that those are probably not the women they were thinking of.

Women can think for themselves: they can decide when to work towards a more important career, when to stop working, who to vote for, or when to run for office. Those thinking otherwise, should question their motives.

This article was first published by the Luxembourg Times.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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