Today, one of our male volunteers responded to our second contact via the website in response to our card campaign.
We were contacted by a female professional offering support. We thought it worth sharing the exchange. It is edited to preserve anonymity. It explains a bit more about us and who we wish to engage with.
I recently came up with the idea of 50/50 male/female members of parliament, as your website suggests, of electorates with two parliamentarians.
I am a solo senior female, and hate it that the only politicians I have to communicate with in the three electorates (council, state and federal) are men, and I know that when I speak with them they have no empathy with my ideas, and I have often felt it was a gender issue.
Also I have been involved in the women's movement of one of the major parties, and have seen how the men take control all the time. The women have to try and behave like men to get anywhere.
I will be a great supporter!!!!!
Democracy5050 Male volunteer:
I cannot tell you how exciting it is for us to get your e-mail. To tell you the truth, we were thinking our project is performing a really slow burn and we have not been able to get much traction. We console ourselves that this must mean we are probably on the right track.
To get your email encourages us to think that 5050 does resonate. We know that the two-person electorate idea is rock solid and just steps over the writhing bodies of men ranting about merit.
However, I have to disclose that I am a male person responding on behalf of democracy5050 - an organisation currently composed of four people. You can see a small nucleus - the postcard campaign and the site are our attempt to get people together to adopt the campaign. We have been hawking the idea for a while and find most people ignore us. Is that not, as you say, a common experience for women?
Anyway, I suppose I am now worried that the above may put you off and I have to explain a bit about my motivation. It is simply that I have a very very pessimistic view of the world. In contrast to all the issues that depress me - 5050democracy represents to me the transformative change that we all desperately need.
You mentioned being involved with one of the political parties. As you would know, the two-person electorate idea is not endorsed by a major party in Australia. We are critical of targets and we are critical of quotas, so we are both above party politics, and likely to upset everyone.
After all that, would you like to talk more?
Yes, I worked out that you were male, but as you are an academic I was not too phased, but as you might guess, I might prefer a female!!! However, I do think it is very powerful that there is a bloke who fosters the idea, that to me makes a lot of sense.
A postcard was given to me yesterday. I wrote about it (the 50/50 idea, which I thought I had worked out all by myself!) and I was surprised to see that not a lot of women supported the idea, but I have learned that women who are still married tend to be less vocal about women's issues. When one is on one's own, the thinking changes and you see more clearly the way that women are excluded or ignored in so many ways.
I am keen to work with you on the project, though I say this with fear and trepidation as I am already madly over committed, and if I return to Uni, I probably won't have time to breathe.
Happy to keep in touch,
Democracy5050 Male volunteer:
We are looking for a range of women to be involved so that I can retreat to the background. My female feminist colleagues I suppose have waited to see if this was anything more than a 'thought bubble' and a general reaction has been - 'the struggle is about culture not politics.'
I also thought I had had a brainwave - only to find buried in the literature that there have been other calls for exactly the same. And perhaps most importantly to me, Vida Goldstein died miserable about the lack of entry to parliament - after a lifetime condemning the stranglehold of parties on the political process. Similarly, Catherine Helen Spence (said to be the first woman to stand for public office) wanted to have the state of South Australia treated as a single electorate using a version of 'Senate style' voting so that women and minorities could find it easier to get elected. http://www.democracy5050.com/democracy/?rq=first%20woman
Perhaps, the failure of good ideas here, is not because they are good, but because they are powerful. Too powerful.
We would be happy to chat - and we are also full of thoughts of restraint so that 5050 does not end up looking like we are spamming you.
We have no formal structure yet - we are waiting on a core group of women to participate - if you agree, we will keep you posted of any work to become a formal organisation. Please let us know if you do decide to travel down this way.