What women's rights look like when the two sides come together as one.
What women's rights are when women are no longer manipulated by party rhetoric.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How About We Make These Presidential Candidates Work Harder For Women's Votes?

Cynthia Ruccia

As this presidential season progresses, I am noticing more and more that we women are not exactly asking for anything from our politicians that would actually help us break the persistent glass ceilings that we women confront on a daily basis. There are alot of reasons for this state of affairs which I have outlined in other pieces. But for sure, if we are going to vote for these presidential contenders, I believe we ought to make them work a little harder for our votes than we are making them work. So why aren't we demanding more?

First of all, as I wrote in this piece, Women's Rights Are Held Hostage to Party Rhetoric, we women have had the same old agendas for 30 years that we have presented to our politicians. That agenda has revolved around the abortion issue (which I have also written about in Taking On The Third Rail Of Feminism), and that issue has grown to represent something else entirely to our politicians. I don't need to go into the ways that the Republicans and the Democrats tend to be different on that subject. The problem is that whatever side you take on the issue, as long as the politicians talk the talk, we don't make them walk the walk. What that means is that if what they say sounds good to us, we vote for them. But when it comes time to do something about the issues the we have deemed "women's issues" nothing ever gets done.

Now there are structural reasons nothing ever gets done, and those reasons revolve around two different views of the role of government. As I've said before, why would we want to get women's issues chewed up in that debate, a debate that has little to do with the fact that women are not represented proportionally at the top in practically anything in the United States? The debate about the role of government in our democracy has been going on for at least 235 years and it doesn't appear that that conversation will be going away any time soon.

Let's face it-------we women and the men who support our cause of economic parity and representational parity, well, we have simply become lazy. Our agenda has become stale and we are letting our politicians get away with murder where our rights and our own power is concerned. Our politicians will do no more than what we demand of them, and lately, we have demanded next to nothing.

Some of you might counter that statement by saying "what about the ERA," or "what about the Paycheck Fairness Act," or similar questions, I say simply that those tactics continue to fail us. If one group puts together legislation that will never pass, what's the point? It's another opportunity for a politician to say that they support women because they support a piece of legislation that will 1) never pass and 2) will probably never be taken up for a vote. We have had one party or another hold the presidency and both houses of
Congress and what did it get us? In 30 years, if our progress will be measured by what legislation passes, if you take the abortion issue off the table, we have failed mightily. It is sad to say that because many good people have worked hard to try to get this agenda moved forward. But if you look at the statistics that we list on the right column of this blog, women's progress has stalled terribly, and women are nowhere near where we expected to be in terms of parity. So why keep trying the same old tactics if they have failed so spectacularly in producing parity for women?

I have another idea------why not ask our presidential candidates to promise to appoint an equal number of men and women to cabinet positions to set the example to the rest of America of what equal representation really looks like? The Prime Minister of Spain Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero did just that when he was elected in 2008. Imagine that------the country that brought us the concept of machismo has now brought us the concept of female equality in the presidential cabinet!! Now we are not asking for a quota system from our presidential candidates. A quota system would involve codifying parity into regulations. We are just asking for the next President of the United States to set the trend for the rest of the country and to just do it!!!

Who are our cabinet officials anyways?  Sometimes they are experts in their fields, sometimes they are a product of political cronyism, sometimes they are just friends who the president can trust. Surely in those realms our next president could come up with an equal number of men as well as women. How amazing would that be and what an important message that would send out.

The most critical message we will be sending is that our votes can no longer be taken for granted because someone mouths the "right" words. Those "right words" aren't going to make anything happen for us as our recent history has shown. If we women are going to vote for you, you need to make a better effort in our parity gridlock and show us that you can deliver  a cabinet that really reflects America----half men, half women. The second message it will send is one to our children and that is proof that they can really be anything they choose to be. And that won't be a theoretical message as it is right now. It will be a powerful statement obvious to the eyes and ears of everyone who sees the new cabinet sitting around the table. That picture will speak volumes about what is really happening----rather than seeing the current tableaus of men sitting around the table with a few token women scattered around. It is indefensible that our presidents don't appoint more women to their cabinets, and we need to hold their feet to the fire.

So women and supportive men, let's stop letting our presidential candidates take our votes for granted. Let's stop selling our votes cheaply. We need to ask------DEMAND-----something in return for our vote. And asking our next president to do what the Prime Minister of Spain was able to do is the least we should be asking. And really, women and men on both sides of the aisle can make that demand without having to hold their noses.  Let's start talking about it----what do we have to lose?


  1. Great idea, I'm all for it. I also want to see more women on the ballot especially on the Democrat side.

  2. Right now, I think the economy and obtaining jobs are more important to women at this moment. I have been unemployed ever since graduating from college in May. I want to work at retail, but one of my parents suggested I return to fast food before I am forced to dig into my savings.

  3. Absolutely. I remember feeling "liberated" in the 70s and look at where we are now --- less pay, less representation, continued second class treatment.

  4. We asked Obama to make that pledge in 2008. His team (and he himself) laughed us off, and refused to even discuss it. He was then handed the Democratic Party's nomination for President. As long as those at the top are allowed to mock our struggle for equality, we will never reach our goal.

    So, the question then becomes, "How do we make them take this seriously?"

  5. Butt: Natalie, Val Jarrett is the head of the Institute/Study/Office/Something of Women and Children in the White House? Not sure what she does. We should be content.

    Oh, you're not? Then, look to NOW for help. Oh, not helpful? Then, Emily's List. Hmmm, I don't find them helpful either. I guess I feel powerless too. Wasserman-Schulz, Debbie--she make you feel good?

    At least the Rs have one female (not doing well) running, the rumors of Palin jumping in too. Still am not feeling powerful either. Am not feeling confident about Prez Ocoma's jobs vaguery. And without jobs and paychecks, a woman is truly powerless. I think we have to focus on the local and state levels to make a reservoir of women to choose from.

  6. Great idea! How do we make it happen? Best to get groups of women from left and right on board. Petitions? Letter to editor signed by groups?

  7. To me the answer is to let this idea take hold in the grassroots, and I believe that it could easily take hold, but it will take time. There are ways to organize around this idea and help it go viral. No politician will accept this idea unless the power of the people is behind it.Kind of like the Tea Party's power. Once people are clamoring for it, the politician's will have no choice but to go along with it. Politicians will go along with anything that will get them votes. Rarely will they do something because it is the right thing to do....term limits anyone?

    But this idea works because it cuts across party lines.....

  8. Cynthia, that's a great idea. We have seen more and more women in Presidential cabinets since at least the Clinton era, but nothing like a 50/50 ratio. Demanding that (of both parties), and seeing it implemented, would be a great step forward for women in America.
    Whadda ya know, I don't have any beefs with you this time!
    By the by, reading your blog these last few weeks has inspired me to go ahead and start my own. I already have a blog where I posted the first draft of my novel, but I've been itching to start a political blog, and reading your stuff has provided part of the impetus for me to get it rolling at last. You know what kind of opinions I hold, so mayhap it won't be your cup of tea, but it's out there if you want to try a sip. It's www.mergelefttoday.blogspot.com

  9. ClearSkies,

    Michele Bachmann is in third place. She is doing rather well when you realize that she is ahead of many more men than she is behind. Personally, I think she will pick up popularity once Perry and Romney knock each other out.