What kind of power?

19 October 2005

Resolution 1325 is all about increasing women’s representation and participation in decision making. It’s based on the premise that the political structures we’ve got are ok, it’s just a matter of giving everyone equal access to them, in much the same way as women’s suffrage gave us all access to a ballot paper.

I think it’s important to ask whether the thing we’re fighting for access to is the thing we really want. We’re not free, nor are we empowered, if we only give privileged women the same access as privileged men. We’re not free if we just empower women to run multinational corporations, while still tolerating the obscene status quo in which those corporations have the status of persons and, because of their wealth, more rights, more access to power, more control over our environment, than actual persons.

We’re not free because we elect a woman prime-minister / president / chancellor to the top of a hierarchy in which the real power belongs to those corporations because it is they who are represented, not the ordinary women or the ordinary people of any sort in that country.

That’s why, to me, Resolution 1325 is to a large extent a distraction. I understand and respect the fact that it took a lot of women a lot of work to get it passed, and of course I’m familiar with the argument that you’ve got to battle your way into an institution – the UN, national government, the police force – in order to change it, but I believe that’s the wrong way round.

I think we need to change power to fit our needs rather than fight our way into power and then try to change it. Otherwise it’s a bit like getting ourselves into a spider web and then trying to restructure it from within. The structure of power is stronger than the people who fill the positions within it.

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