The XX Factor

Record-Numbers of Women Elected in Post-Crash Ireland

Ireland might be the new Iceland in more ways than one. After the Scandinavian country suffered its devastating financial crisis, women vaulted into positions of power in government and business, under the assumption that they’d be better suited to “clean up the mess” the country’s men had made: In an interview with the Guardian , one executive explained that she’d be operating under “core feminist principles” that included risk awareness, profit with principles, emotional capital, straight talking, and independence.

On a smaller scale, the same thing seems to have resulted from Ireland’s parliamentary elections, which saw a record number of women , 23 thus far and maybe as many as 26 when the counting’s done, elected to the chamber’s lower house (the Dáil). This was despite the fact that a lower number of women had run than in previous elections, sparking worries that the number of women in the Dáil would actually decrease. None of the women elected are members of Fianna Fáil, the ruling party that’s borne the brunt of the blame for the crisis.

Also noteworthy is the overwhelming re-election of Joan Burton , the deputy leader and financial spokesperson of the Labour Party, and one of the loudest voices arguing against the government’s fateful decision to guarantee the debt of the country’s banks. Actually, make that one of the shrillest voices: As Michael Lewis wrote in his blockbuster Vanity Fair analysis of the Irish crisis , ” [I]n an hour of chatting about this and that, she strikes me as straight, bright, and basically good news. But her role in the Irish drama is as clear as Morgan Kelly’s: she’s the shrill mother no one listened to. She speaks in exclamation points with a whiny voice that gets on the nerves of every Irishman-to the point where her voice is parodied on national radio.”

But maybe the parodies ended up helping Burton-or at least that was her good-natured assessment.  According to the Irish Times , “Ms Burton said she had received strong support from young women in the constituency who had taken notice of the fact that she was the only female candidate running in Dublin West. ‘And Mario Rosenstock did me no harm either,” she added, referring to the impressionist.’ ”  After all, unlike Tina Fey’s famous Sarah Palin impression, which portrayed the vice-presidential candidate as dim but attractive despite her Wasilla lilt, these showed Burton as stridently annoying but basically correct-perhaps still a gendered stereotype, but one that seems to be helping rather than hindering Burton at this particular moment in Irish history.