Every time a campaign is launched or an election embarked upon, we can all return to one damning, depressing question: where are all the women?
Trinity has long held itself out as a bastion of progressive thought in Ireland. Engaged and informed, it purports to be a veritable cradle of activism. And with good enough reason – College has been at the forefront of any number of social campaigns in Ireland. From abortion rights to anti-apartheid, LGBT Rights to legalising marijuana – if the issue exists, Trinity has a lobby group and a proud history of political engagement to go with it.
But as much as Trinity prides itself on being progressive, it has some glaring problems. It has been three years since a woman has run for president of TCDSU. In 2015, there was one female candidate for the presidency. Before her, there had been no female president in 12 years. There has been one female candidate for the presidency in the last four years.
It is difficult for me to believe that in the last four years there has not been a single woman capable of running for this office. In a university that is majority female, that prides itself on its engagement and activism, it is moreover impossible for me to believe that there are no women who are interested in politics and representation.
Women deserve to be heard at hustings or as the highest authority at TCDSU council
And politics – even student politics – and representation matter. Women should not only be represented at the highest level, but our concerns, our experiences and insight should have the weight and the voice of the presidency behind them. Not just from the perspective of a concerned outsider, but as someone who has lived with transmisogyny, or the intersections of classism and gender, or any one of the myriad issues that affect the majority of this college community everyday. Women, whose voices are heard less on the news, less online and less in meetings, deserve to be heard at hustings or as the highest authority at TCDSU council. We deserve to be heard more than we are now.
And so the question becomes less a case of where are these women, because we know where they are: They are leading campaigns for abortion rights. They are the women who sit as part of TCDSU council. They’re in your lectures, your tutorials, they’re running your large societies. The question is this: why are these women still not running for election?
There are numerous complex reasons why women don’t run for elections on local or national levels, which are replicated here. These are things that will not be solved by any number of “women’s empowerment panels” or TCDSU-sponsored workshops. These factors are ingrained. They are pernicious. They are often imperceptible but they are nigh on relentless for any woman who exists in public space – whether they run for office or not.
It is shameful, but perhaps not at all shocking, that there are so few female candidates running in this year’s elections
There is the socialisation of women to be less ambitious, or the relentless punishment – implicit or explicit – of those that buck that trend. There is the unshakeable trope of women who even appear to seek power as social climbers or cold and calculating machinators that persists wherever a woman asks for more than a background or supporting role. There is the constant death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts of microaggressions, from the interruption in class to the persistent fear that your opinion is unwelcome, and that you are the worst of all things a woman can be: difficult. This is to say nothing of the fact that one quarter of female students have experienced sexual assault or harassment in College.
It is shameful, but perhaps not at all shocking, that there are so few female candidates running in this year’s elections. If Trinity is to be the progressive haven it has always prided itself on being, then it must try harder to put women into the roles that we know we are able for and we know that we deserve.
Correction: 17:58, January 20th, 2018
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that there had been one female candidate in the last five years. In fact, in 2013, two women, Lylas Aljohmani and Rosa Langhammer, ran for TCDSU President.