Hope everyone's had a GREAT holiday so far!!!! All of this time off has gotten me thinking about things, and I've decided to close out 2011 with one more post. So here's my question to you------what have the parties done for women lately?
If you're a Democrat, you'll immediately say that the Lily Ledbetter Act was passed 3 years ago. And you might even mention that we now have a third of the Supreme Court justices that are women. And if you're a Republican, you'll probably remind us that 2010 was a real renaissance in the Republican Party when so many more Republican women than ever were elected.
I'd agree except that I believe that as far as it goes for women, we can and should be doing much better than that. If you put women's progress on a timeline, things are just taking too much time to get to where we need to go. When the second wave of progress in the 20th century got underway, I was in college, and as far as I could tell, the idea was to open up the doors of opportunity for women. We wanted women to be able to have the same chance as men to go to school, obtain any profession we desired, and take our place in society as 50/50 stakeholders. After all, women are just as smart as men and have just as much to offer, and it would be a shame to our country to bottle up the talents of over half our population because they were female.
Well, we made some stunning progress. Those of us in college when all of this was going on are living lives our mothers couldn't even dream of. We can go to any school we want, we can study anything we want, we can be anything we want. Except for one small detail--------we are NOT 50/50 power sharing stakeholders in the U.S. It turns out we lag many countries in the world in that department. I have a list of stats in the right column that illustrates starkly what our real progress has been in that area. We rank #70 in the world in female representation in government. Fewer than 3% of Fortune 1000 companies are run by women, and the list goes on and on and on. This article written recently shows how deep this lack of progress goes.
I keep wondering why we are stalled out and the answer to that question isn't simple or obvious. Some say that the country isn't ready to have women lead anything. Some say that women don't want leadership roles. Some say that women can't progress because they want to have babies. Some say that the problem doesn't exist (I love that one!!). Some say that we just need to wait because progress is happening and it is just a matter of time until women rise and take their place at the table as power sharing stakeholders. Some say that the generation of people who grew up with working mothers will change everything because they see women differently than the generations that have come before them.
The reasons are many and varied. However they all have something in common and that is that they all imply that we are passive participants in this reality. By this I mean that if we just see the light and find the right reason for why we have stalled in our progress, the country will change. We are waiting for it to happen or for someone to make it happen for us.
Before we go on, I want to say that maybe you are someone who doesn't think the situation is worth doing anything about. Maybe you think that the status quo is just fine. I say to you that while you are certainly entitled to your opinion, that line of thinking is dangerous to the progress of women. Why? Because that line of thinking is forcing all of us to lie to our children. To me, one of the most important lessons of parenthood is never to lie to your children. And to say that women have arrived and that girls can dream to grow up to be anything they choose is just one big boldfaced lie. Theoretically girls can be anything they want, but in reality we have no proof to point out to them that this is happening. We certainly have made progress from 50 years ago, but to stop now is to set the bar too low.
Back to my point------why are we waiting for someone else to make this parity happen for us? The answer to that question is varied, but to me it boils down to several things. First of all, it is an old disempowered way of thinking. "It's too hard" so someone has to help us. Secondly, we have gotten used to leaning on the political parties to make it happen for us. The result of those lines of thinking is that things don't happen because we wait for people to do something we should be doing for ourselves. And as long as we give the parties that power, we will stay in place for the rest of time.
We actually have alot of power we are not using to make these changes come about, but we are not using our power. We have become people who are being manipulated by the parties as the graphic on this piece illustrates. I have this conversation all of the time, and the reactions I get have become predictable. Women (and men) have become so entrenched in their party affiliations that they can't see beyond their own box.
The Democratic women believe that their party is THE party of women. There may have been some truth in that a while back, but in truth, the Democratic Party has done little to really advance women to where they are equal stake holders in anything in the past 25 years or more. HOWEVER, the party has been masterful in convincing women that they are the party of women. And they keep women stirred up against the other side all of the time and then throw a bone to women every once in awhile to keep them in line. If the Democrats were truly the party of women, they would devote some serious time and energy to making sure women advance to the top. In large numbers. Instead they keep brainwashing yet another generation of women that the other side wants to blast them back to the stone age and take away every gain we have made so far.
The Republican side is another story completely. Women have progressed even less than on the Republican side. The main pablum women on that side are being fed is that the Republicans don't believe in quotas. Period. It's a wacky argument on the face of it. That argument is in direct reaction to the affirmative action programs of the 70's which had their pluses and their minuses. However, at this point, that argument is a straw argument because the facts speak for themselves. To say that we can't support giving women parity because it would amount to quotas is ceding alot of ground to people who don't want to see women advance. I agree in alot of cases that government intervention into business can be overly burdensome, but there are many ways for women to get to the top without government getting into the thick of it. I hate seeing women's progress get knocked out by the purity of an argument that was relevant a long time ago (maybe) but isn't addressing today's reality. Also, as far as I can tell living here in Ohio, a state extremely diverse in its makeup, Republican women as well as Democratic women go to school, get advanced degrees, work full time, become professionals and as much as Democratic women, can find themselves in the situation of being the sole breadwinner in the household.
What the two parties offer women is simple------just enough to keep them in line. If you read the party charters the prime purpose of political parties is TO WIN ELECTIONS. Period. How they go about winning elections is a simple matter of building a coalition of groups so that they can win. And we women seem to have cast our lot with the various parties and have lost sight of why we are aligned the way we are. For those who care about such things, what have these parties really done for us lately? NOT MUCH. And they haven't because we have made it so easy for them. We keep waiting for the parties to do the right thing to advance women. And we have shown them that we are easily bought off with trifles. Our issues are never important enough. There is always something more important to do than think about women's parity. They'll get to it later. And both parties have found that the golden calf of the abortion issue is the easiest way to keep us in line and totally divided. And women have somehow bought the argument that our future is tied up in whether we need for abortion to be legal or not. A powerful argument can be made that the abortion issue is fundamental to how we define ourselves. But I say that that argument can go on until the cows come home because it does NOTHING for the gaping facts that show women have completely stalled in their progress to be equal power sharers. No wonder women hold so little power and haven't advanced to the top!!!!
Right now the parties are experiencing an unprecedented loss of membership, an interesting development. If you look at the approval ratings of Congress and the political parties, they are at an all time low. It makes for an opportunity for women to make unprecedented progress, believe it or not. People are more open to new ideas than at any time in the last 50 years. The parties have let all of us down for alot of reasons. Why are we waiting for them to do something? As long as women hold little power, our politics will continue to corral us and use us to win elections where men will hold most of the power.
So what is the answer? Very simply, women need to start voting for women. Period. THAT is where our power lies. We don't need legislation to do it. We just need to do it. Even for women we don't like or agree with. Until people get used to seeing women run things, things won't change. We can't legislate companies to promote women. But we can vote for women and vote in 50% of our representatives as women. and if you are hanging on to your party affiliation------what have they done for you lately? Most likely your party has pulled the wool over your eyes and made you think that they are doing something on your behalf that they aren't doing. Both parties. Let's not wait until the parties make it happen. Let's use our power to vote in more women. Come on-----you CAN do it!!!!