A women-only political party?

There are women-only train cars, hotels, beaches…and now political parties.

The first Senate candidate for a political group targeting women’s issues says the time is right for such a party. The What Women Want Australia party was launched in Brisbane today along with the Senate candidacy of party member, Anne Bousfield.
Ms Bousfield says the major parties have done a poor job of tackling issues that impact families.
“As most mothers know, there’s issues with paid maternity leave,” she said. “Then there’s issues with finding affordable, quality child care.
“Then there’s issues about educating their children, then after that, there’s issues about training them in the tertiary sector and the environment that they’ll grow up in.”

Do we really need a women-only political party to get voters to care about women?

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73 Comments

  1. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    “What, then, was the purpose of telling us about your “scatter brained” caseworker?”
    That one doesn’t need to be disabled to be the most effective advocate for the disabled.
    “Kinda makes our point for us, doesn’t he?”
    No, he doesn’t.
    “UCLA, you’re assuming that we live in a vaccuum where we’re all equal. I’ll say it again–we’re not equal. Men hold the dominant position in society. That is why it would be wrong for men to hold a dominant position in an organization purporting to advance a feminist perspective. ”
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not oblivious to the point you are making. What I am objecting to is the strong claim that someone who is not of X experience is automatically expected to be incapable of being the best representative for a group of individuals.
    I think the point that you, Nina, etc. are making is quite valid: That in most cases people with a given experience and with a personal stake will be the most effective advocates.

  2. Posted June 28, 2007 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    No one’s saying that a man would be a bad leader of a feminist org. We’re saying that a man shouldn’t be the leader, until there’s gender equality. Even if he doesn’t want to, the hypothetical male leader still benefits from his gender in a way that the women he’d be leading don’t.

  3. Posted June 28, 2007 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not oblivious to the point you are making. What I am objecting to is the strong claim that someone who is not of X experience is automatically expected to be incapable of being the best representative for a group of individuals.

    OK, can you further see why there might seem to be something just a little amiss about a movement that is all about women’s right to speak for and represent ourselves being spoken for and represented by the very group whose “representation” of women made feminism necessary in the first place?

  4. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    “Ok, UCLA, you clearly just don’t get it. I don’t know how to make it any clearer without opening up your brain & connecting the synapses for you.”
    Well, I think you’ve been pretty effective. In the space of just 30 minutes I’ve gone from completely disagreeing with you/nina/elise to pretty much agreeing with you all. So no need for brain surgery tonight :-) !

  5. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    “LoL it’s like having a walking demonstration. Kind of like, back in my college days, when the inevitable frat boy would say, “But isn’t feminism against the MeNz!?!”
    Really? Is that what I believe? Or do I visit this board daily because I am interested in learning more about feminism and gender issues, hearing other people’s views, trying to convince others of my opinions, and testing out how well my opinions hold up given insightful critiques of my ideas?
    “OK, can you further see why there might seem to be something just a little amiss about a movement that is all about women’s right to speak for and represent ourselves being spoken for and represented by the very group whose “representation” of women made feminism necessary in the first place?”
    Yes, you’ve convinced me.

  6. Posted June 28, 2007 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Really? Is that what I believe? Or do I visit this board daily because I am interested in learning more about feminism and gender issues, hearing other people’s views, trying to convince others of my opinions, and testing out how well my opinions hold up given insightful critiques of my ideas?

    To be completely honest with you, it’s hard (for me at least) to tell sometimes. Often you appear to me just as you say. Other times (at certain points in this thread, for example) I wonder.

  7. Moxie Hart
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Whoa, really?
    Damn! I mean, yay!
    *Shiftily hides her trepanation tools*

  8. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    “To be completely honest with you, it’s hard (for me at least) to tell sometimes. Often you appear to me just as you say. Other times (at certain points in this thread, for example) I wonder. ”
    That’s fair enough. Since my viewpoint varies from feminist issue to feminist issue, it makes me an uncertain ally. But I definitely feel like I’ve learned alot on this board, especially on topics relating the degree and severity of sexual harassment many women face, body-related issues, and media/personal bias regarding expected women’s role in politics/family, threats to abortion rights, and so on. I might pontificate at times, but I also absorb as well :-) .
    >> :-) .

  9. Posted June 28, 2007 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    But I definitely feel like I’ve learned alot on this board…I might pontificate at times, but I also absorb as well :-) .

    As far as I’m concerned, learning and absorbing are the two most important contributions a pro-feminist man can make right now, and it’s certainly more than many do.

  10. Jeremy F.
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    “Or do I visit this board daily because I am interested in learning more about feminism and gender issues, hearing other people’s views, trying to convince others of my opinions, and testing out how well my opinions hold up given insightful critiques of my ideas?”
    Same reason I come here. I might not always agree with the other posters here, but I am admittedly very new to feminism. I could very well be wrong and end up changing my mind at a later date when I’ve been exposed to more information. Thankfully I’ll have the opportunity to take some women’s studies classes next semester, so I’m pretty excited about that opportunity.

  11. Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    arleeshar is right about minority parties often holding the balance of power in Australian politics. They can use their deciding votes to pressure major parties into making adjustments to bills. I’d be happy to vote for this party and direct my preferences to the Greens or a mainstream party.
    My only problem is with the name of the party – it makes it sound like they speak for all women, which they obviously can’t, and I think it would have been better to choose something else (suggestions?).

  12. Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    arleeshar is right about minority parties often holding the balance of power in Australian politics. They can use their deciding votes to pressure major parties into making adjustments to bills. I’d be happy to vote for this party and direct my preferences to the Greens or a mainstream party.
    My only problem is with the name of the party – it makes it sound like they speak for all women, which they obviously can’t, and I think it would have been better to choose something else (suggestions?).

  13. Rebecca
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I think a lot of these comments are getting caught up in the theory of this, and missing the point behind the party.
    Single-issue parties have virtually no chance of election themselves to either house of the Australian federal parliament. However, as we (unlike the US) have a system of preferential voting, they can have a significant influence on who does win seats by directing preferences to parties with policies more in line with their own.
    With that in mind, it’s not hard to see what WWW are after here. Neither of the major parties are particularly good on issues of childcare and the like, but by forming a single-issue party, WWW holds out the carrot of valuable preferences in marginal seats, and thus provides an incentive to try and get the major parties to improve their policies in these areas.

  14. nausicaa
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Jeremy F – I’m sorry I called you a concern troll. I was cranky and overworked yesterday!
    Regarding men in leadership positions: I don’t think anyone here would argue that there’s no role for white people in the NAACP or for men in NOW. But it does seem odd that the highest leader of an identity-based organization would not have that identity, doesn’t it? I’m not saying I’m against it, but it does seem a little strange. On the other hand, I agree with UCLAbodyimage that leading an organization is a really hard job, and it’s in the best interests of the identity-based organization (and the group it seeks to defend) to pick the best leader, which should be only on the basis of merit.

  15. nausicaa
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Another thought: maybe it would help to change the definition of “leadership” of nonprofit identity-based organizations to emphasize *service* over prestige. People who dedicate their lives to these organizations are doing it to help others — not to (only) gain accolades for themselves or to get power. If you see it that way, becoming the head of NOW or NAACP is actually a way to serve the constituency the best you can. I hope nobody would argue that you can’t serve black people without being black, etc.
    Overall, of course, the identity-based organization still has to have black people or women or whatever fully represented. But I think it’s a mistake to concentrate only on the identity of the top leaders. It takes a very special set of skills and dedication to lead a large organization, and I don’t see how it’s a good idea to limit leadership by race/class/gender. Leadership is, in a way, an objective skill that doesn’t have much to do with your identity. To foster good, strong, effective organizations, we need the best leaders available!

  16. Posted June 29, 2007 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy, I suspect you are where I was a while ago: you’re upset and possibly annoyed because you keep running into people who claim that these things don’t exist; that this type of “reversal” doesn’t exist.. And yes, I know, that can be frustrating as all hell.
    Yes, reversal exists. But no, it doesn’t really MATTER, because the reversals are so small, or minor, or completely justified. Realizing that will make you less frustrated.
    So: It is, technically, sexist to ask women only to run NOW (candidacy based on sex) just as it is technically discriminatory to practice affirmative action (candidacy based on race)
    And in both cases, so what? BOTH of those examples involve something which technically falls into a general category of something that is bad. Sure; we concede. But life’s decisions are made based on specifics. And choices almost always are the “best” option rather than the “ideal” option.
    The few men who want to be NOW president; the few whites who get hurt by AA.. those are necessary and justified harms which support the larger goal of NOW and AA in general. Ideal? No. Necessary? Yes.

  17. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    “It takes a very special set of skills and dedication to lead a large organization, and I don’t see how it’s a good idea to limit leadership by race/class/gender”
    Thing is, people who are heads of the major organizations in Washington DC really do help make important philosophical/theoretical decisions, like which direction the movement as a whole should try and take.
    I think many “supporting” roles in a social movement are every bit as important and necessary as as leadership roles. I don’t think there’s any shame in me being relegated to supporting roles in a Civil Rights organization. No matter how much I listen, no matter how capable I am of communicating with and organizing people, I’m not a minority and it would be really ignorant of me to think that I know exactly what it feels like to be one (not that all minorities feel the same, not the point). There are plenty of organizations that are built around the concept of being majority supporters of the minority. (men against violence towards women organizations, etc.) That is the appropriate sort of organization for men to lead.
    Yes it takes a very special set of skills, but there are plenty of people with those skills in every group.
    You’re focusing on the “unfairness” towards a single individual who might otherwords lead an organization. If serving is as great an honor as leading, then I don’t see how you can argue it’s “unfair” to limit men to supporting roles in a women’s organization. In AA, no it’s not an ideal solution, but it’s the best solution we have found so far I think (I think the fact that since the abolition of AA attendance by Afro-Ams in college has plummited pretty much proves this). Similarly, I think a woman’s organization should be led by someone who knows what it’s like to be viewed as a woman and treated as a woman by society. Because I think it will be better for the movement as a whole, and maybe also the organization. Young women growing up are lacking in female role models. There are several reasons I think females should be the head of women’s organizations.

  18. nausicaa
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Nina (can I call you Nina?): I’m not sure what your definition of “supporting role” is. But as a woman, I have to say — do I want the best damn lawyers and lobbyists working to fight for women’s rights, regardless of their gender? HELL yes! If what you’re saying is that the public face of an identity-based organization should be a member of that group, I guess that makes sense. But to me, running organizations well is a technical skill that doesn’t necessarily have all that much to do with substantive issues, so race/gender/class shouldn’t be a qualification. What you DO need is a way for the organization as a whole to make decisions that reflects the desires of its constituency & advances its mission. For that, you do need to make sure the voices of the particular identity group are heard. But that doesn’t necessarily equate with having *all* the leadership be a member of that group.

  19. ellie
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    As far as I’m aware, Northern Ireland has a women’s party. My understanding is that when nationalism is being discussed there is little room for understanding the gendered dimensions of war and peace and nationalism itself. This party helps to put these issues on the agenda. No it’s not ideal, but it is neccessary.

  20. Rebekka
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    As someone who understands the background of this What Women Want party, let me clarify.
    The party was not set up to (a) represent all women, or (b) to represent all feminist issues.
    The party was in fact set up in order to give people who are concerned about birth, and in particular the medicalisation of birth, a voice in the upcoming Federal election (and presumably if they actually get any candidates up, which is very unlikely, after that as well). The party has its genesis in the Maternity Coalition group, http://www.maternitycoalition.org.au , which exists essentially as a lobbying group for better birth services.
    Thus the name What Women Want – men may want better maternity services for their partners, but it’s women who give birth.
    Personally, I think the name is misleading, but I understand why they’ve chosen it. But the party (despite having now developed other social policies) primarily exists to talk about access to maternity services, access to one-to-one midwifery and continuity of care, home birth and access to better, more women-centric models of care in hospitals.
    And how women give birth is not a parents’ issue, and it’s not an children’s issue – it’s a part of our sexuality and it’s shaped by the patriarchy.

  21. Rebekka
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    As someone who understands the background of this What Women Want party, let me clarify.
    The party was not set up to (a) represent all women, or (b) to represent all feminist issues.
    The party was in fact set up in order to give people who are concerned about birth, and in particular the medicalisation of birth, a voice in the upcoming Federal election (and presumably if they actually get any candidates up, which is very unlikely, after that as well). The party has its genesis in the Maternity Coalition group, http://www.maternitycoalition.org.au , which exists essentially as a lobbying group for better birth services.
    Thus the name What Women Want – men may want better maternity services for their partners, but it’s women who give birth.
    Personally, I think the name is misleading, but I understand why they’ve chosen it. But the party (despite having now developed other social policies) primarily exists to talk about access to maternity services, access to one-to-one midwifery and continuity of care, home birth and access to better, more women-centric models of care in hospitals.
    And how women give birth is not a parents’ issue, and it’s not an children’s issue – it’s a part of our sexuality and it’s shaped by the patriarchy.

  22. Rebekka
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    As someone who understands the background of this What Women Want party, let me clarify.
    The party was not set up to (a) represent all women, or (b) to represent all feminist issues.
    The party was in fact set up in order to give people who are concerned about birth, and in particular the medicalisation of birth, a voice in the upcoming Federal election (and presumably if they actually get any candidates up, which is very unlikely, after that as well). The party has its genesis in the Maternity Coalition group, http://www.maternitycoalition.org.au , which exists essentially as a lobbying group for better birth services.
    Thus the name What Women Want – men may want better maternity services for their partners, but it’s women who give birth.
    Personally, I think the name is misleading, but I understand why they’ve chosen it. But the party (despite having now developed other social policies) primarily exists to talk about access to maternity services, access to one-to-one midwifery and continuity of care, home birth and access to better, more women-centric models of care in hospitals.
    And how women give birth is not a parents’ issue, and it’s not an children’s issue – it’s a part of our sexuality and it’s shaped by the patriarchy.

  23. Rebekka
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Whoops, I didn’t mean for that to come out three times… I was having interweb issues yesterday.

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