Stephane Dion has declared that one-third of all Liberal candidates in the next election will be women, even if he has to appoint them himself.
While many commentators have condemned Dion's plan as a needlessly inflammatory, and indeed patronizing, affirmative action program for women, there has been surprisingly little consideration of the plan's main flaw: how does the Liberal Party define who or what a woman is?
Don't laugh: there is plenty of supposedly serious academic debate about the nature of gender.
Defining "woman" by some arbitrary scientific standard, such as the possession of XX chromosomes, may be considered unduly discriminatory and lacking any public policy justification for same.
Consider the case of transsexuals. A man who has hade sex-change surgery may still have a male genetic profile, but he has been pumped full of estrogen and surgically castrated in order to develop secondary female sex characteristics. Is he/she/it not a woman?
A pre-operative transsexual may not have taken any hormone treatment or been surgically altered in any way, but if he thinks of himself as a woman, is he not a woman?
What about transvestites, who may have no intention of changing their sex, but who may identify themselves as women and dress exclusively in women's clothing? What if such a man just likes to wear panties under his suit or wear his wife's twinsets and heels when she's out of town?
On the other hand, should women seeking to become men through sex change surgery be considered women for the purposes of candidate selection?
To say nothing of homosexuals...but we cannot say nothing of homosexuals in this issue.
Homosexual couples almost invariably ape heterosexual couples: one plays the "man," the other plays the "woman."
A passive, effeminate homosexual man who "catches," as it were, might be more womanly than many women in the Liberal Party. By the same token, a butch, masculine lesbian with a buzz cut working at a lumber mill might be more of a man than the girly men who make up much of the Liberal Party.
And then there are those strange creatures who call themselves "genderqueer"; that is to say, who consider themselves neither man nor woman, or perhaps a bit of both. Should they be able to have it both ways--or neither way?
If gender is simply another social construct (and Liberals already have forced civil marriage into this category), then surely anyone who thinks of himself/herself/itself as a woman should be accepted as such by the Liberal Party.
Anything else would simply be illiberal, bigoted and un-Canadian.
Source: Toronto Star