How might democracy be reformed in response

How might democracy be reformed in response to its gender problem?

Democracy, in its most simple definition, literally means regulation by the people [ 1 ] . Systems and procedures have been established in democratic states to guarantee that this can go on. However democracy has its critics, one of which is from a gender position. In modern-day arguments about democracy, gender arguments are cardinal to its significance. Through this essay the construct of ‘gender trouble’ will be explained and analysed and the challenges to democracy reviewed. The essay argues that it is non democracy per Se which has gender problem but instead there are gender inequalities within societies that, through democratic systems, can and are being redressed through democratic reform.

The essay starts by briefly looking at democracy. It so proceeds to analyze what is meant by ‘gender trouble’ and identifies how this is applied to democracy. Specifically it examines the statement of Judith Butler. It suggests that Butler’s review is utile in conveying gender arguments to the bow in how democracy maps, in peculiar and throughout the essay illustrations from the UK political system and construction will be used to exemplify the statement. The 3rd portion of the essay specifically examines some of the reforms in the UK that have happened as a direct response to ‘gender trouble’ or gender inequalities in society, thereby placing how democracy has helped gender problems in societies through reform. However, this is a reversible coin and the essay does besides analyze how democracy as a system could be reformed to turn to issues of gender. The essay concludes that it is non democracy per Se which has ‘gender trouble’ but the societies in which we live.

As per the definition at the start of this essay, democracy is basically rule by the people. However democracy is non the same universe over, there are different signifiers and there are different degrees of democracy, with some democracies more democratic than others or instead some democratic procedures being more democratic than others. Democracy has many prefixes ; extremist, representative, broad, direct, societal or participatory to call a few of the more common 1s. However they are all democracies. For Dahl the cardinal rule of democracy is that everyone within a political community is able to every bit hold their involvements considered. Beetham identifies the chief norms/values in a democracy as ‘participation, mandate, representation, answerability, transparence, reactivity and solidarity’ [ 2 ] . These are the rules through which democracy is achieved and through which he has studied and measured the degree of democracy in different states.Basically democracy is rule by the people and the essay will continue to work from this definition. Merely as there are many signifiers of democracy there are besides many reviews, one of which ( and the topic of this essay ) is a feminist review. In general the reviews of democracy are non reviews of democracy per Se but that they are unfavorable judgments of the procedures in which democracy is being delivered in an effort to better how democracy can be genuinely be rule by the people. Dahl foremost used the term polyarchy to depict the agencies through which democracy was delivered, the processs and establishments that are established in a democracy to guarantee that everyone is able to hold a say [ 3 ] . Therefore the reviews of democracy should be viewed every bit moving as a critical friend, focused on bettering the democratic system, doing it more democratic and bettering the influence that people have in the administration of their ain lives. As Young neatly encapsulates, saying that ‘just as democracy requires antidemocratic review in order to stay democracy, so excessively the democratic province may necessitate democratic opposition instead so fealty if it is non to go the decease of democracy’ [ 4 ] . It is in this sense that Butler’s impression of gender problem will be examined, helping to place how democracy might be reformed in order to do it more democratic in footings of gender. Butler does hold more extremist positions on democracy but it is her focal point on gender problem that will be the focal point of this essay, as the following subdivision will demo.

The feminist author Judith Butler coined the term ‘gender trouble’ in her book of that name was published in 1990. InGender TroubleButler challenged the preconceived impression of gender, reasoning that impressions of gender of ‘man’ or ‘woman’ and what it is to be one were socially constructed. By this she means, for illustration, the traditional construct of work forces as the staff of life victor and adult female as homemaker were non natural or biological presumptions but instead social. She advocated the deconstruction of believing about gender, reasoning that there is no individual construct of ‘woman’ merely as there is no individual construct of ‘man’ they are culturally and socially comparative and constructed as opposed to natural. Her statement so concluded that as they were constructed in the first topographic point, instead than being biologically, they could hence be deconstructed. Her thesis continued and besides challenged the really motion she was portion of and challenged the cosmopolitan construct of feminism. If there was no individual construct of ‘women’ there could non be one individual theory of ‘feminism’ . Butler states that ‘by conforming to a demand of representational political relations that feminism joint a stable topic, feminism therefore opens itself to charges of gross misrepresentation.’ [ 5 ] It is through the construct of ‘gender problem ‘ that Butler challenges the traditional thoughts about gender individualities. In footings of idea on democracy Butler espouses a extremist signifier of democracy. Butler holds disregard for the map of the province, taking one to oppugn how can this be a signifier of democracy if there is such neglect for the map of the province. For Butler extremist democracy is about battle and review. Her review fits into the class of critical friend in that there is no alternate solution offered but that her review is helpful in foregrounding the issues of gender. With mention to Young as quoted in the old subdivision, this is genuinely a review of democracy that helps to better the democratic procedure.

In more general footings we can construe gender problem ( in the context of the topic of this essay ) as mentioning to preconceived thoughts about the function of work forces and adult females in democratic society. That gender problem is the instability of power and arguably representation. If we take Butler’s statement this neatly explains the traditional function of adult females and work forces in society and why adult females have traditionally been underrepresented in political relations and in Government in the UK even though we are populating in a representative democracy. As a review of democracy Butler’s statement is utile on two foreparts, foremost it provides a utile review and look into on the gender instability in political relations, and hence in the democratic procedure. Second it indicates, though reasoning that there is no 1 construct of feminism, that one adult female will non needfully stand for or show the experience of all. The extreme of this statement would be that lone adult females can show women’s involvements, or that lone black people can stand for the involvements of black people or handicapped people can stand for the involvements of handicapped. Butler’s statement contradicts this by stating that the experience of one adult female is non needfully the same as another, therefore it can be concluded that the same should non be assumed for all. In footings of democracy this is overcome by components electing local representatives that best represent their involvements, be they male, female, black or handicapped. In footings of deductions for feminism itself Butler argues that in order to be genuinely democratic, in that it has to be representative of all those whom it represents, feminism has to ‘as a democratic endeavor, feminism has had to give up the given that at base we can all hold about some things or, equivalently, to encompass the impression that each of our most cherished values are under controversy and that they will stay contested zones of politics’ . [ 6 ]

Butler argues that it is because of preconceived thoughts about gender individualities that there is inequality in society. ‘If individualities were no longer fixed as the premises of a political syllogism, and political relations no longer understood as a set of patterns derived from the alleged involvements that belong to a set of ready-made topics, a new constellation of political relations would certainly emerge from the ruins of the old.’ [ 7 ] Therefore by get the better ofing the ‘traditional’ functions of work forces and adult females in society there would no longer be gender problem in society and hence in the democratic procedures through which society is governed. It would go the norm to see the House of Commons as really representative of society as opposed to being preponderantly white and male. It is non democracy per Se which has ‘gender trouble’ but the societies in which democracies are which still have gender inequalities. By presenting policies that help to eliminate the gender differences or ‘gender trouble’ in society will ensue in a fairer and hence more democratic society. While the agencies through which equality can be achieved, i.e. through positive favoritism and through policies which enable and favour the promotion of adult females in society in order to re-dress the power instability that presently exists. The undermentioned subdivision identifies some of the reforms that have happened at European Union and United Kingdom degree as a response to gender problem or gender inequalities in the democratic polyarchy and in society.

Reforms to the Democratic Process ( as a response to gender problem )

The European Union refers to guaranting equality of chance for work forces and adult females at all degrees as gender mainstreaming, saying ‘Gender mainstreaming involves non curtailing attempts to advance equality to the execution of specific steps to assist adult females, but call uping all general policies and steps specifically for the intent of accomplishing equality by actively and openly taking into history at the planning phase their possible effects on the several state of affairs of work forces and adult females ( gender position ) . This means consistently examining steps and policies and taking into history such possible effects when specifying and implementing them.’ [ 8 ] This is an first-class illustration of reform in a democratic system in response to gender issues. To changing extents this has filtered down to the authoritiess of the member provinces of the European Union, although possibly non as explicitly.

In Britain there are legion illustrations of reforms that have been as a direct response to gender problem. The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 or the handiness of the preventive pill on the NHS even the granting of rights for same sex twosomes to acquire ‘married’ . The chief reform for democracy in Britain came with the enfranchisement of adult females under The Representation of the People Act in 1918. Since so there have been many reforms through the democratic procedure which have addressed gender instabilities in society and challenged traditional gender functions, promoting and enabling adult females to travel into countries of work which traditionally have remained closed to them. Inequalities still remain nevertheless, none more ague that in the corridors of power in Westminster.

In her inaugural address to Parliament, Nancy Astor, the first female Member of Parliament to take her place said ‘I do non desire you to look on your lady Member as a overzealous or moonstruck. I am merely seeking to talk for 100s of adult females and kids throughout the state who can non talk for themselves. ‘ [ 9 ] While adult females have continued to be the minority in the UK parliament, their Numberss have grown. While traditionally political relations has been the modesty of work forces, in the last decennary this has seen a dramatic alteration as more and more adult females are come ining Parliament. The 1997 general election saw more adult females elected to Parliament than of all time before. Following the Labour landslide success in that General Election, the Labour Party had 101 adult females elected Members of Parliament. The imperativeness dubbed this group of adult females as ‘Blair’s babes’ a term slightly take downing in itself as Poly Tonybee of The Guardian pointed out [ 10 ] . Clare Short claims ‘as more adult females come into the Commons, the civilization will alter, the docket of political relations will broaden, and the establishment itself will be transformed.’ [ 11 ] However the initial impact of increasing the adult females members of parliament has been researched and contested, with the new adult females MP’s found to be more willing to tow the party line as Norris and Lovenduski have found in their paper [ 12 ] this determination is echoed in Cooke’s article, where she interviews several of ‘Blair’s Babes’ . [ 13 ]

Presently in Westminster ‘women comprise 19.8 per cent of MPs, or 126 of the 646 sum. Labour has 96 female MPs out of 352, or 27.5 per cent ; 17 of the 196 Conservative MPs are adult females ( 9 per cent ) ; Lib Dems have nine out of 63 ( 14 per cent ) ’ [ 14 ] . In a representative democracy how representative can it be if merely over half the population are adult females yet nowhere near half the representatives in authorities are adult females? While this correlativity is rough, in that the involvements of adult females can be represented by work forces every bit good as adult females, it is non merely adult females who can stand for adult females, nevertheless, certainly in a democracy there should be some sort of relative representation to reflect social makeup. The grounds for this demand to be examined and altered if democracy in the UK is to be genuinely democratic as this indicates are that in its present signifier it is far from democratic. [ 15 ]

One country of the democratic procedure in the UK that needs to be reformed in response to gender problem is the hours of Parliament. UK politicians have lobbied about the hours that politicians keep, peculiarly the female politicians but non entirely, in that they are un-family friendly, particularly for those members of parliament whose constituencies are the furthest off from London. Revising parliamentary hours so that they are more accessible to more people would be one manner in which democracy in the UK could reform as a response to gender problem. While this reform did go on, it was so changed, so one measure forwards and so one measure back. ‘Following the reforms they helped to force through, Parliament now finishes at 7pm on Midweeks and 6pm on Thursdays ( though arguments can still run on to 10pm at least ) . It used besides to complete at 7pm on Tuesdays, but on 26 January 2005, oppositions of the reforms managed to reconstruct the old late Tuesday posings. On Tuesdays, as on Mondays, Parliament now sits until 10pm’ [ 16 ] .


Beetham, D. ‘Key Principles and Indices of Democracy, ’The Democratic Audit of the United Kingdom, Charter 88 Trust, London, 1993.

Beetham, D. , ‘Towards a cosmopolitan model for democracy appraisal ‘ ,Democratization, Vol. 12 No 3 June 2005, pp.1 – 17

Butler, J. ,Gender Trouble: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, London 1990.

Butler, J. , ‘The End of Sexual Difference? ’ in Elisabeth Bronfen and Misha Kavka explosive detection systems. Feminist Consequences: Theory for a New Century ( New York, Columbia University Press, 2002 ) , pp.414-34

Dahl, R. ,Democracy and its Critics,New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989

Leach, R. ,British Political Political orientations, Philip Allan, London, 1991.

May, J.D. ‘Defining Democracy’ ,Political Surveies, Vol. 26, 1978, pp. 1-14.

Norris P, and Lovenduski J. ,Blair’s Babes: Critical Mass Theory, Gender, and Legislative LifeWorking Paper from

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Spitz, E. ‘Defining Democracy: A Nonecumenical Reply to May, ’Political Surveies, Vol. 27, 1979, pp. 126-128.

Toynbee P. ‘Better than men’The Guardian16/03/01

Young, I.Inclusion and DemocracyOxford, Oxford University Press, 2000

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