Mirror Representation as a Supporting Theory for Women’s Empowerment

Mirror representation rests upon the core idea that in a democracy which is representative of the people it must be comprised, mirrored by, a similar proportion of each segment of the population who brought that government into power. Originally used in the United States as a means for African Americans to feel politically empowered with their concerns represented in Congress, it has shown to be an excellent method for including people who otherwise feel, in many instances rightly so, excluded from political decision making. From these beginnings, the idea to expand this form of representation is seen as a possibility for other groups typically excluded such as women and indigenous peoples.

Naturally, the question is why must a seat be given to someone of that minority group rather than another person, can they not represent that minority? Phrased another and not so delicate way, what is it that a white male does not understand after reading about a subject, that someone who is of that minority group does. The answer is that through living and experiencing life as that minority, there is an understanding and knowledge which is derived from being in a specific social environment which brings with it experiential lessons, values, and understanding which cannot sufficiently be replicated through academic study. Thus, if women’s issues are to be covered properly in government those who need to do so must be women. This statement is true for any excluded group in politics.

Criticism though comes in the form of two questions. The first being that at what point can one say that such a person represents a minority. I.e. can a Caucasian woman represent all women including, for instance, African American women or only Caucasian women? Secondly, at what point does a minority not need to be represented. When can we say that in some instances it just is not feasible for all minorities to be represented and that in some instances those who do not share the same experiential social awareness can in fact adequately represent a certain minority?

As the second question/criticism goes into general questions regarding democracy and the balance between the majority and minority in any system of government, it is not too important for this short brief. In addressing the first question though it might shed some light into the latter.

At what point do experiences overlap? I think the easiest way to answer this without sounding as though the criticism should be skipped altogether is to counter it with the idea that it is taking the issue to the absurd in order to undermine progress. While it may be true that different subsections of the female population cannot represent each other, it is certainly clear that they can do so better than someone who is in no manner representative of that group. As the debate over representation of subsections continues it should be enough at this point in time to say or maintain the position that there should be an increase in the representation in politics of those who have the knowledge and understanding coming from an experiential understanding, which others cannot simply study.

This naturally leads one to support the idea or argument that governments which are comprised of a majority of men are fundamentally not representative of women.