According to the media, this is “the year of the woman.”
More women are running for public office than ever before. The dramatic increase in political activism following the election began with Women’s Marches that turned out truly astonishing numbers of people, and political scientists who have studied the ongoing Resistance report that middle-aged suburban women are providing its backbone.
Many of these reports make it seem as if the dearth of female presence in Congress and Statehouses around the country is due to women’s previous lack of interest in running for office. Then America elected a male chauvinist pig as President, that election roused the sleeping maiden(s), and the surge in their political participation is the result.
If you accept that explanation, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you…
I’m not a fan of people who whine about victimization, but really, it takes a certain kind of obtuseness not to recognize the differences in the way political men and women are perceived and treated– the extra hurdles women candidates face, and the vicious demonization of those few who rise to positions of power.
Paul Krugman recently considered the case of Nancy Pelosi. He began by looking at the issues being raised by Republican Congressional candidates, noting that they weren’t running on the unpopular tax bill or even more unpopular trade war.
Instead, Republicans’ attack ads have increasingly focused on one of their usual boogeymen — or, rather, a boogeywoman: Nancy Pelosi, the former and possibly future speaker of the House.
So this seems like a good time to remind everyone that Pelosi is by far the greatest speaker of modern times and surely ranks among the most impressive people ever to hold that position. And it’s interesting to ask why she gets so little credit with the news media, and hence with the general public, for her accomplishments.
Krugman goes through a list of those accomplishments, which compare favorably to past Speakers we consider great (and which absolutely tower over the performance of Paul Ryan). Krugman notes that, compared with more modern House speakers–Gingrich, Hastert, Boehner, Ryan– Pelosi is a giant among dwarfs. But you’d never know that from her media coverage.
It’s quite a record. Oh, and whenever you hear Republicans claim that Pelosi is some kind of wild-eyed leftist, ask yourself, what’s so radical about protecting retirement income, expanding health care and reining in runaway bankers?
It’s probably also worth noting that Pelosi has been untouched by allegations of personal scandal, which is amazing given the right’s ability to manufacture such allegations out of thin air.
So why is Pelosi always portrayed as “divisive.” Why is she the preferred target of GOP attacks?
I mean, it’s true that she’s a political partisan — but no more so than any of the Republicans who preceded and followed her. Her policy stances are far less at odds with public opinion than, say, Ryan’s attempts to privatize Medicare and slash its funding. So what makes her “divisive”? The fact that Republicans keep attacking her? That would happen to any Democrat.
Or maybe it’s just the fact that she’s a woman — a woman who happens to have been far better at her job than any man in recent memory.
Hillary Clinton has been demonized for thirty years. It is certainly fair game to fault her campaign for miscalculations, or to recognize that she isn’t as charismatic as her husband. It’s fair to disagree with policy stances she’s taken. But she has performed admirably in every government position she’s held, and despite being constantly investigated, has never been found to have broken any law. Male officeholders routinely exhibit the behaviors for which she is excoriated, and almost never excite the same animosity.
Evidently, “uppity” women like Nancy and Hillary offend a lot of people’s notions of “proper womanhood.”
America has a lot at stake in November’s midterms. If–as I hope–there is a Democratic “wave,” a lot of Democratic women will be swept in with it. Along with all the other tasks facing them, they will need to join Elizabeth Warren, and persist— continuing the maddeningly slow process of culture change, normalizing the participation of women in government, and refusing to be stereotyped, demeaned and dismissed.
I hope it will prove to be the year of the woman. But we’re not there yet.