Commentary | Inequity in student politics: males v. females, emotion v. reason

Li'l Hyde Parks

Gender inequity in the SSMU exeuctive

As the SSMU executive prepares to see its successors elected in March, we’ve been reflecting on the people who run for these positions. Ideally, SSMU executive positions should be filled by a diverse group of students. Since the executive is elected by a popular vote, any student who garners enough support can occupy this leadership role.

However, over the past 10 years, trends of gender bias have emerged quite blatantly. Three positions requiring external representation to other officials and astute financial analysis have clearly been dubbed as positions better suited to men: eight out of the past 10 presidents have been men; eight of the past 10 vice-presidents (external) have been men; nine out of the past 10 vice-presidents (finance and operations) have been men. Meanwhile, the internal, administrative, student-heavy positions have been set aside for women. Seven of the last eight vice-presidents (clubs and services) have been women. Six out of the past seven vice-presidents (internal) have been women. It is disappointing to see these predictable trends emerge in student leadership positions, which should be prime examples of accessibility. While we don’t mean to claim that a black SSMU president would usher in the end of racism, we do understand how the composition of our political representative bodies reflects the unspoken biases still rampant in society.

We hope that during the nomination period (February 1 – March 1), students will take the time to reflect critically upon these statistics and how gender norms affect who we think would be a good president, which position candidates decide to run for, and our political behaviour at large.

—S.O., SSMU VP (Clubs and Services)

The motion re: critical thought has been voted down

Riva Gold’s column in the most recent Daily (“Zionism is not racism,” Commentary, February 15) discussed the history of Zionism, its treatment at the UN, and self-determination – and in many ways, echoed other assertions that the preamble of the Winter 2010 General Assembly resolution, put forward by McGill’s chapter of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. These comments, made by a few individuals in the campus press, suggested that the clauses condemning the occupation of the Palestinian territories translate to a blanket condemnation of Israel’s existence, a critique of Judaism, or the denial of Jewish self-determination.

But this analysis is wrong and misses the point SPHR was trying to make.

Critiquing Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories is a critique of the state apparatus, the bureaucrats, and the military-industrial complex of Israel, not of the nation of people that compose it (Jewish, Arab, or otherwise). Similarly, nowhere in the motion did SPHR say that Israel has no right to exist, or that the Jewish people have no right to self-determination. Distinguishing between a state’s actions and its people in order to evaluate the state itself is the sort of thing political science students – among others – engage in all the time at McGill, and no one finds that problematic.

Kneejerk reactions saying that this motion was anti-Semitic or anti-Israel – or conversely, that all the motion’s critics were somehow all anti-Palestinian – polarized an already controversial discussion. There’s a lot of emotion behind the founding of Israel and its role in the displacement of Palestinians, so I can empathize with both sides. But ultimately the General Assembly ended up with a losing score card for everyone. Emotional response: one. Critical thought: zero.

—E.H.


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