Here at Women for Election we have consistently seen how the best international research into why women are under-represented in politics rings true. Confident is a persistent barrier. Repeatedly during our various courses, training sessions and mentoring events we see capable, competent, well qualified women come up with excuses as to why they couldn’t possibly run for election. That is why it is so disappointing to see a long-time male councillor, Fianna Fáil’s Tom Brabazon arguing that women who have given birth should be election candidates as their life experience makes them more qualified (http://www.dublinpeople.com/article.php?id=4617). Setting aside the farcical nature of the comments and the question as to whether the electorate should want to elect childless men, Cllr. Brabazon’s comments have an underlying sinister quality. Not only are the comments incredibly offensive, they also serve to attempt to create another barrier to women. It seems that women can’t win. Those women with children were also told by (now former) FG Councillor Pat Hussey they shouldn’t run because of the ‘exorbitant crèche fees they will have to pay’. Of course some might speculate that the fact that Cllr. Brabazon shares a Dáil constituency with two female colleagues (who happen not to have children) might be the real motivation behind his remarks. The theme of International Women’s Day this year was ‘Make it Happen’. The time for action is now and antiquated, out-of touch, inaccurate and offensive comments about women have no place in our political discourse. If we are not talking about how having children affects male politicians then it shouldn’t be an issue for women either.
Suzanne is the Director of Operations and Campaigns for Women for Election.