Why budget ‘gender statements’ are a bad idea
2017/03/30 Leave a comment
One thing to argue that gender and diversity analysis should include men (hard not to agree given some of the disturbing trends regarding education and outcomes), quite another to dismiss GBA entirely like Peter Shawn Taylor appears to do.
In my various analyses of diversity in government appointments, it is generally simpler to present one gender than both, as the numbers are simply the flip side of one another (and yes, traditionally women and other minorities have been under-represented). But narratives can and should be more inclusive.
And while Lilla’s thesis that identity politics led to the alienation of white males, it is more likely that the fundamental changes in the economy and the impact on white working class males played a larger part:
The Gender Statement’s ultimate consequence is to promote a winner-take-all gender competition—a battle between the sexes to see who can muster the best (that is, worst) numbers in making their case for systemic discrimination. The mere fact I’m writing this now—the heresy of men’s rights notwithstanding—proves the point. Ottawa’s plan to expand its Gender Statement in future years to include new identities such as ethnicity, age and sexual orientation can only raise this contrived grievance-search to new, intersectional heights.
At this point, I’m reminded of Columbia University humanities professor Mark Lilla’s much-shared essay in the New York Times, The End of Identity Liberalism, in which he unpacked the destructive impact of the political fixation on gender, racial and sexual identities on the U.S. election.
“A generation of liberals and progressives [have become] narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups,” he writes. Such obsessive attention to self-identity eventually caused white, predominantly-male Americans to similarly think of themselves as a disadvantaged group, thereby putting Donald Trump in the White House. “Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it,” Lilla concludes, calling on liberals to spend more time promoting shared experiences and values, rather than curating differences.
Surely this is the fire we’re playing at in Canada as well with the budget’s Gender Statement. It encourages Canadians to consider the country’s fiscal plan not in its broad sweep and affect on the country, but rather through the lens of narrowly-defined identity categories. And to succeed in this context, it becomes necessary to elevate whatever disadvantages your group might experience while ignoring those of competing groups.
This might work for a while. But eventually everyone will start to demand their special moment. Men might even wonder why they’re asked to pay 66 per cent of all taxes, while their problems get zero per cent of Ottawa’s sympathy and attention. And then what?