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?