Monday, June 23, 2008

America, women, and political office: Many miles to go ...

Before Hillary Clinton bowed out of the race for the Democratic nomination, I read an interesting piece in TruthOut, which I meant to post for you all. In the craziness at home and in the news lately, I never got around to it. Yet it is almost more powerful now that the passion and emotions of the Clinton vs. Obama discussions have died down.

We have a long, long way to go before America truly accepts women in political office as the norm. It has nothing to do with Barack Obama, so perhaps now that he's the candidate we can look at the subject of women without it becoming a "which is worse: sexism vs. racism" battle. Perhaps we can look at the issue of women in politics in America on its own merits and issues.
Like the rest of the world, the US has been moving forward in terms of women in politics, but it's doing so in spurts and slower than many of its neighbors. Ten years ago, this country ranked 37th in terms of women's political representation. It now sits in 71st place, according to a recent Interparliamentary Union study.

Twenty-eight of the 50 states have not yet elected a female governor. And women make up only 16 percent of both the US House and the Senate.

One roadblock to political equality for women may be an overly sunny self-perception on the part of Americans, according to Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project, an organization aimed at upping women's political representation, and author of "Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World."

"People think we're already there," Wilson told Truthout. "They think we have a political meritocracy. As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as a fair country. That makes it harder to own up to the facts of the masculinity of the political system and the normalcy of recruiting men to run for office."

Even triumphs can be deceptive; there's a difference between achieving a milestone and establishing normalcy. The first woman to serve in the Senate took her oath in 1922. Yet in 1992, 70 years after that barrier was broken, the Senate contained only two women.
It is getting better, as more women are running for local office, learning how to fundraise, and gaining experience. Hillary Clinton's candidacy has been a huge step forward for women at the national level, but it does not mean that we will suddenly have a slew of women running for president next election. Instead, we'll have this collective (and false) feeling that women have reached equality with men in the political arena, and we'll take two steps backward before we see another woman run for the White House.

Read the rest of Maya Schwenar's article, Women in the Running, here.


donald said...

i am proud to boast that both of our senators from maine are women. even though they are both republican, they are moderate and olympia snowe has given her party fits over the years.

we are also proud to have margaret chase smith, the first woman elected to both the house and senate, as well as the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency.

hopefully the saying "as goes maine, so goes the nation" will take hold in this regard with the rest of the country.

sue, did i hear you saying something about lobsters on sara's blog? take a break from the bathroom renovation and come on up!

Sue J said...

Maine does indeed have a great tradition of electing women to office. Who knew you all would be so "cutting edge"?!

And yeah, the bathroom renovation. When I can bring myself to do it, I'll write a summary of how it's going. Briefly: "not well." Plumbing issues.

We'll be in Vermont over July 4 -- we'll just swing by your way for a lobster roll!

donald said...

that would be quite a swing from vermont for a lobster roll! especially with the current price of gas. maybe i should just fedex you a couple lobsters. it might be cheaper!! then you can add as much mayo as you like, and relish too! LOL

Sue J said...

yeah, I guess I'll just be dining on maple syrup this trip!