Women in Western Politics

The excellent analysis of the status of women in elective office in Britain and France ("Quotas Boost Women Pols," May 14) shows what political parties can do to help or hinder the empowerment of female legislators. The Labour Party in the United Kingdom, like the Democratic Party in the United States, attracted female voters by advocating programs of interest to women and by running a large number of female candidates. The political parties in France, on the other hand, have virtually turned their backs on women in the political arena.

As a result of these different party policies, Britain, the US, and France have very different trends on the number of women lawmakers. From 1980 to the present, the UK has gone from 3 percent femal MPs to 18.2 percent. The US went from 3.7 percent to 11.7 percent congresswomen. France actally declined from 7.1 percent to 6.4 percent women in their National Assembly.

While the French political parties may continue to move slowly to support female candidates, it is likely that the Conservative Party in Britain and the Republican Party in the US will attempt to close their respective gender gaps by promoting more women for public office.

George A. Dean

Southport, Conn.

After reading this article, which seems to castigate the French for not being politically correct enough to follow the British lead and enact quotas, so that they too can field more "qualified" women candidates to run for Parliament, I was struck by the naiveness of your staff writer to the realities of the real world.

Qualified women should rightly be encouraged to run for political office, but not through the use of any innocuous, undemocratic means such as quotas. Quotas only lead to the recruitment of potentially unqualified people and potentially disqualify more qualified, more worthy candidates from running.

I noticed that this edition of the Monitor included 13 articles (65 percent) with male bylines and 7 articles (35 percent) with female bylines. Would the newspaper have been dramatically better if there had been more parity between the number of male and female staff members represented?

Nobody really cares, because all that you and I are interested in is a quality product, regardless of what the staff writer composition is. The same thing holds true in the world of politics. Improved performance, rather than what sex you are or even what race you are, is the key, and quotas are the wrong tool for a private organization or government to use in achieving this most desirable goal.

Craig A. Miller

Francis, Wis.

The caption to the photograph accompanying the story refers to Glenda Jackson as a "Cabinet minister" in the new British government. Miss Jackson is not in fact among the five women in the 22-strong Cabinet. She has been appointed to the non-Cabinet post of Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Transport - which is presumably why the photo shows her sitting on a bicycle outside the Houses of Parliament.

Alistair Budd

Vaud, Switzerland

French-English feuds continue

"France Laments Mobutu's Fall, Blames US for Lost Clout in Africa" (May 20) is the latest development of an old story: The French have always seen English-speaking countries (which they call "anglo-saxon") as their main enemy when it comes to global power (versus power in continental Europe).

It is widely assumed in France today, as in the past, that English-speaking countries (not just Britain) always conspire to limit or reduce French power in the world.

Yesterday, the fight was about French nuclear testing in the Pacific or French fishing rights near Newfoundland. Today it is about French influence in Zaire, tomorrow it will be about something else. The Franco-British colonial wars of the 18th century are not about to end.

Jean-Francois Briere

Albany, N.Y.

Chair, Dept. of French Studies SUNY/Albany

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