Let's talk about Sarah
Posted on April 20, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Who is Sarah? Just your typical, overworked but extremely dedicated public representative, apparently. An average TD who toils from morning to night in the name of such good causes as human rights in Asia, tackling climate change, and... swimming pools.
To explain: Sarah is the star of "A Day in the Life of a TD", the comic strip-style brochure published by the Houses of the Oireachtas which is given out to visitors to Leinster House.
We follow her throughout what is apparently a day like any other, in which she cycles to work (the Dáil) in the morning and then spends the packed day dealing with all manner of local and global issues.
By 10.00pm, we are told, a "tired, but happy" Sarah finally leaves the office but it's not time for home just yet as she has to go to a promotion party for a colleague.
And lest you think our TDs sleep like mere mortals do, when she eventually makes it home at 1.00 am she puts on the kettle and sits down in the kitchen to read a climate change bill.
Now, someone is certainly to be congratulated for choosing a woman as the representative of political life to young people visiting the Dáil. But let's be clear; the overwhelming message from the brochure is that in order to be a TD, whether you're male or female, you must be willing to forego having anything else in your life.
Sarah apparently has no children to take care of (or even see), no partner she has to make time for, and clearly no time to spend with friends or family, if she has any. And, unlike most male TDs, she doesn't have a wife to help make this kind of life possible for her. Simply put, she has no life outside of politics.
If we are to encourage more women and young people to view politics as a desirable and viable career, is presenting it to them in this manner really the best way to do that? Despite having a woman as its star, the brochure firmly reinforces the culture which has excluded women for generations.
It's worth noting, too, that not a single other woman appears in the scenario, not even in the party scene at the end. (A crowd member in one image has what looks like a ponytail so we might be able to claim one additional woman, but it's impossible to tell for certain.)
If women want to be politicians, the story suggests, they must conform to the existing (male) culture.
Worryingly, the view of politics represented is one that can't be too appealing to anyone, male or female, who wants to combine their work with an outside life of any kind, let alone one that might involve caring responsibilities. It is this culture that must change if we are ever to see a Dáil which accurately reflects its electorate.
50% of the population is female and women should be 50% of TDs too, instead of the current 15%. And if we want our TDs to have any connection to the world beyond Kildare Street, they should all be able to experience a little more of it than Sarah does.
The entire brochure is viewable as a pdf on the Oireachtas website. To read it, click here.
Political Equality Development Worker