Wednesday 18 September 2019

Ian O' Doherty: If you need quotas then you don't deserve the gig in the first place

Accomplished: Claire Byrne’s remarks about refusing to see gender at work were passed with nary a grumble
Accomplished: Claire Byrne’s remarks about refusing to see gender at work were passed with nary a grumble
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

I was slightly taken aback by this quote during the week, and I'm sure you can see why: "I have refused to see gender throughout my career. I have just operated as a person working in the industry. Maybe it's the bullish part of me, but I just keep on keeping on. I refuse to see those things and if I do see them, I just brush them aside and keep going. I believe that the best weapon you can have in this business is to be good in your job and be hard-working and nothing else should matter."

Obviously only a man, and a beneficiary of white, male privilege and the traditional patriarchal power structures could ever come out with something so utterly tone-deaf.

In fact, I could even throw in a few more appropriate criticisms of the thoughts just expressed - they are problematic. Offensive, even.

Don't you just hate it when some dude starts mansplaining to women about the problems they face in the workplace?

Doesn't it really grind your gears when one of the phallocentric oppressors impose their privilege on everyone else by glibly stating that it is enough to just be good at your job and hard working?

What about traditional power imbalances? Structural discrimination? Systemic sexism? My God, the list is so endless I could write a whole academic paper using just buzzwords to explain how awful that quote is.

Except, of course, there's just one problem - the quotes came from Claire Byrne, one of RTÉ's most successful and accomplished presenters and, as far as I am aware, a woman (although one mustn't be too quick to judge these days, of course).

There's a good chance if some of those calling for strictly enforced gender quotas in politics, academia or the media were to read those quotes blind, they would assume they had been made by some terribly insensitive man.

The fact that they were, instead, made by a woman who is far more successful than the vast majority of her male peers means they passed with nary a grumble.

But what make Byrne's remarks so interesting and, in the current climate quite courageous, was that they actually go to the heart of an issue which is shrouded in ideology and entitlement and pre-loaded with a ready-made array of insults and denunciations for anyone who dares to object to quotas

The issue is this - meritocracy.

Like many people who oppose quotas in all their grisly promotion of mediocrity, I've always stressed that I'd be quite happy to see an all-female cabinet, or an all-female judiciary, or an all-female editorial board - as long as they were the best people for the job.

That used to be a fairly straightforward and relatively uncontroversial thing to say - before the ideologues got their claws into the issue and before they framed the whole debate into a spurious narrative which posits the theory that anyone opposed to artificially stacking the deck is obviously a misogynistic monster.

The reason why Byrne's remarks should be welcomed is that they're a welcome antidote to the cult of victimhood propagated by a class of very modern, very middle-class feminist who have figured out that the best way to make a power grab is to portray yourself as someone in need of not just equal treatment, but preferential treatment.

It's a remarkably infantilising approach to an entire gender, and it's not one that's shared by most of the women you'll meet - but the ones who bang the drum, bang it so incessantly that there often appears to be little point in opposing it.

Which brings us back to the 'P' word - privilege.

According to the self-created sliding scale of victimhood, women have it the hardest, and enjoy less 'privilege' than men.

Yet on Planet Normal, where the rest of us see the world rationally rather than as an array of conspiracies, it is quite obvious, for example, that a college educated, middle-class woman enjoys more 'privilege' in this society than a working-class man of the same age who never went to university.

That's not a plot against working-class blokes, it's just how things tend to happen - a better education gives you more opportunities.

But there is something quite wonderful in looking at female campaigners here, in the UK and in the States, who have invariably enjoyed the benefits of fee-paying secondary schools and universities complaining that the world hasn't been kind enough to them.

The world ain't kind to anybody.

If we wanted to go down that route, should we start instituting quotas for working-class kids?

I rather imagine the clamour against that would be quite deafening and even though the media/academic/political complex could certainly do with more class diversity, that would be a mistake as well - because quotas will always encourage and promote a form of box-ticking averageness regardless of who benefits.

Yes, we need to improve childcare for working mothers. We need to make it easier for working couples to split the parenting duties. Only a fool would say that a woman should be paid less or treated worse because of her gender. Those issues are obvious. But the people who need a gender quota to help them get to where they want to be?

Well, they don't deserve to be there in the first place.

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