Medelmåttighet (That’s Swedish For “Mediocrity”)

To honor the 101st International Women’s Day on March 8, 2012, The Independent published a piece titled “Revealed: The best and worst places to be a woman“:

When more than half of the world’s population wakes up on Thursday – the 101st International Women’s Day – it will be hard to know whether to celebrate or give in to despair. A British woman will face the prospect of at least 14 more general elections before women equal men in the Commons. But a woman in Qatar will be six times more likely to go to university than the man next door.

Some of their “revelations” included that the United States is the best place in the world to be a female athlete (“Five of the top 10 highest-paid female sporting athletes in 2011 were from the US.” – one can only guess that they’re including Maria Sharapova, a US resident but not a citizen, to get that number) and that Thailand is the best place in the world to be a female executive (“Thailand has the greatest percentage of women in senior management.“).

The Independent goes on to declare that Rwanda is the best place in the world for a woman to be a politician:

Rwanda is the only nation in which females make up the majority of parliamentarians. Women hold 45 out of 80 seats.

While it is true that women hold 45 out of 80 seats in the lower house of Rwanda’s parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, this is not entirely because the enlightened people of Rwanda voted for them rather than men against whom they were competing.  You see, 24 of the 80 seats in the Chamber of Deputies are mandated to be “Women’s Representatives”.  That still means 21 women were elected out of the 53 remaining seats (there are also two Youth Representatives and one Disabled Representative), or 39.6% of the lower house.  And what of the upper house?  Four out of twelve elected members of the Senate in 2011, or 33.3%, were female.  So yes, Rwandans do vote for women, but not more than they vote for men, and when both houses of Parliament are taken into account, females definitely do not “make up the majority of parliamentarians”.

And what about those Swedes?  Apparently Sweden is the “[b]est place to be a woman in the arts.”  That’s because Sweden has decided to embrace mediocrity:

The Swedish Arts Council has launched initiatives to improve gender equality in the arts. The Swedish Film Institute mandates that film grants be distributed evenly between men and women and there are quotas for women in film production.

No longer will film grants be distributed on merit.  If ten films are to be made that year, then woe to the sixth man on the list if five women decide they want to be the next Ed Wood (equal and opposite woe to the sixth woman on the list in the opposite scenario).  Sweden may be a great place to be a woman who wants to make a movie, but it sounds like a terrible place to be a woman (or man) who wants to see a (good) movie.

Equality does not mean equal outcomes, it means equal access.  As long as there are no barriers, whether it’s to women serving in the Rwandan parliament or to women receiving Swedish film grants, then creating quotas for women only hurts the quality of the final product by preventing full and open competition.


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