I have talked to many people about quotas. I have read so many articles about the quota. So many that there’s barely anything if anything at all that I haven’t read about it. Still, I can’t say whether I’m a fan of it or not. All the other feminists I know have a very clear position; it seems so obvious to them. But, as I noticed, it can seem just as obvious for a feminist to support the quota as to speak up against it. My problem is that I understand both sides, but I simply can’t choose…
So many reasons to LOVE the quota
For a feminist, nothing is better than the idea of forcing the old men who have the power to give half of it to women. The quota can help women, who deserve to be there, to get to the top. But let us be honest – we don’t know if half of the best people are women; what if the quota makes us loose some great men who could have changed the world if only they had been in power?
This makes it very hard for me to understand how a man can support the quota (and they always impress me: these feminists, who fight a battle with the quota, that isn’t even their own problem). Because, at first sight, it seems like a man could only suffer from it. But if you think about it again, that’s not entirely true. Mixed teams work better, and that’s proven. So the men, who are on the team, benefit from the quota.
But what about the men who could have been on the team, but are not there because some woman is in there, maybe only to fill the quota? I could turn in circles for a long time, asking myself (and you) these questions. But then again, I have to be realistic – what about the women who deserve to be on the team, but who are not, because they are women and because there’s no quota?
If I want to worry about the men who maybe not change things because of a quota, I should wake up and talk to all the women who can’t change things because there’s no quota. A quota is a compensation for the discrimination that hurts women every single day. And, as a friend reminded me a few days ago, we have to keep in mind that a quota is thought to be a temporary solution; that, if it works, won’t be needed anymore.
I want to quote my English teacher here: “Quotas are the most effective way of ever achieving a better gender balance” – and I couldn’t agree more.
Nothing more terrifying than a quota
Yet, as a woman, nothing is more terrifying to me than the idea of getting to the top because I am a woman, not because that’s where I ought to be. I’d rather stay at the bottom all my life than getting something I don’t deserve because of my gender – it would most probably make me very unhappy. And I don’t think I would be able to change anything there, at the top if I got there only because of a quota.
I remember having this feeling once that I got somewhere because I am a girl, not because of something I did or said or something I could do. Just earlier this month, I was elected as a class speaker. I was elected by the girls (and one boy), and I know that they had already decided to vote for me before I had even said what my ideas were. They were happy as long as a girl would represent them as if a boy wouldn’t be able to do that. I listened to the boys, and I got the feeling that one of them would have done a better job than me. But he didn’t even have a chance – because he’s a guy. That’s what I call stupid sexism. I’m not happy because I have the feeling that I didn’t “really” win, he’s not happy because he wasn’t elected. Nobody is happy, sexism is just awful.
Even though we don’t have a quota for class speakers, I keep thinking that I was elected as a woman, not as a person. My problem with the quota therefore is the fear of feeling like that again. The fear of being seen as a woman before being seen as a person. The fear of being seen as a woman before being seen as a competent person. Because – let be me very clear about this – I have absolutely no problem with being seen as a woman, I really like being a woman, I just want people to acknowledge me as a person, simply because my gender has no impact on my skills and my capabilities.
All I do is complain
In this whole quota-debate, all I do is complain. For the future, I have decided that I’m either going to have to decide or going to have to shut it down. Because if the only thing I do is criticize and disagree, I never help anybody and, what’s more, I keep the ones who know which side they stand from discussing and perhaps really changing something.
When I am somewhere as a woman (e. g. at the Young Greens in Germany, where we have a 50% minimum women/girls quota), I can’t stop asking myself if I would be doing the same thing if I was a guy. Even if I know that I would probably do the same thing, this question keeps popping up in my head. I complain because I feel bad, being somewhere only because I am a woman. On the other hand, when there’s no quota, I start complaining because I say I have fewer chances to win because I am a woman, not because I am (maybe) simply too stupid to do the job.
So today, I stand somewhere along this line: I am a girl – and I want to change things, so I want to get to the top. But I won’t get there to fill some quota, I’ll get there because I’m going to fight for it.