Monday, July 05, 2010

Women in American Politics


In November of 2008 American women learned, in no uncertain terms, that this country was still so sexist they would vote to its highest office a man of no executive background, and a 'Global citizen' of mixed race and with a glaringly Muslim name...over a woman. It was a wake up call for women of all political stripes. We now knew where we stood.

Though, truthfully, we should have already known this by the fact that a mere 17 of the 100 US Senators are women (and 13 of those were not elected but appointed --7 to fill the seat of a deceased husband). There are 75 women in the House of Representatives...which makes up a paltry 17% of the membership. There are currently only six female governors (and I believe the record was nine).

Back in 2005, I was asking why only 12 of the Top 100 political blogs were run by women and women if my hypothesis for that question might also address the poor showing in the national political scene:

"Having a political blog opens you up to every kind of criticism. In real life I have never had a man (or a woman for that matter) scream at me and call me the C-word, but I have received hundreds of emails that have. To maintain a political blog you have to be willing to steel yourself to nasty comments, degrading emails and people having the freedom of being able to hide behind a keyboard and say things to you that they would never have the nerve to say if they were standing in front of you. Anyway, I may be wrong, but I think it is this open hostility that keeps women from engaging in this corner of the [blogo]sphere."

So is it that women aren't being elected, or that women aren't running in enough races? And getting back to the Newsweek article that prompted this post:

"Something pretty creepy has been happening to conservative women lately. There seems to be an insistent, increasingly excitable focus on the supposed hotness of Republican women in the public eye, like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Michelle Malkin, and Nikki Haley—not to mention veterans like Ann Coulter. The sexual references are pervasive: they come from left, right, and center, and range from gushing to highly offensive. The Atlantic asked, “Is Sarah Palin Porn?” as others quizzed the former governor about whether she had breast implants. Right Wing News compiled a list of the hottest conservative women in new media. Playboy even ran an outrageous piece titled “Ten Conservative Women I’d Like to Hate F--k,” which read like a sick attempt to make rape cool. “We may despise everything these women represent,” wrote the author, “but goddammit they’re hot. Let the healing begin.” Moron.

It’s odd to see how some men insist that when women start to grasp power, we should think of them primarily as playthings and provocateurs. Is this the best way to explain their success? They aren’t challenging the status quo. They’re being wild! They’re not trying to lift the ban on offshore drilling. They’re being naughty! When four women beat a field of men on the same night recently, competing for primary and gubernatorial nominations, it was widely referred to as “ladies’ night.” Aren’t ladies’ nights those promotions where women are allowed free entry into bars to provide fodder for the men?" (source)

I had never really considered the possibility that complimenting the looks of Conservative women was just one more way to belittle their successes. I love when stereotypes are shattered, so having beautiful, brainy, hip Conservative women out there makes me happy knowing condescending, Liberal men are cursing their existence... But, if their inherent hotness gives neanderthals an alternative reason for their success...maybe the Right needs a few Elena Kagan's out there to prove that the brains and the ideology win and not the package they come in...

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