Like you, I feel like I'm having a convention/politics coma much like the food comas we all get on Thanksgiving. Even before the last speech was given on Thursday, I'd had more than enough. I'm still feeling overloaded, but I have a few thoughts on the two conventions that I wanted to get down on paper.
Before I go any further, to anyone who comes to this blog for the first time (or even for those of you who aren't quite so new), I want to categorically state that I am an INDEPENDENT. I lean neither left nor right. My leanings are towards finding a new way for feminism because imho for now, our politics are failing us in a huge way. Our politics have failed us because women are still mired in last century's paradigm of having little to no power. Female voices in general have yet to make it to the oval offices, executive suites, and to the top of many if not most professions. The mighty U.S. ranks #80 in the world in female representation in government, women hold 26.8% of Congressional seats, only 12% of governors are female, only 8% of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. are headed by a female mayor, women are 2.8% of Fortune 1000's CEO's, we've never had a female president or vice president. We make 77 cents on the man's dollar. You can check out the links to these facts in the column on the right.
I also want to caution anyone on here of two things:
1) I am going to criticize the Democrats. Please hear this loud and clear----I am NOT criticizing the Democrats because I am a Republican. They will be criticized as well. Just because I sound like a Republican doesn't mean I am a Republican. Independents can criticize Democrats too. I feel a need to give this disclaimer because today's Democrats have a hair trigger against criticism. And if you aren't mouthing the right words, many will knock you down for straying off the talking points. For some reason, I am able to criticize the Republicans without having to take the level of abuse I get by criticizing Democrats. And for those fact checkers out there, you will notice that officially I am listed as a Republican. Let me explain----I live in Ohio and if you decide to vote in a primary election, whichever party's primary you choose to vote in, you are listed as having that party's registration. I wanted to vote in the Republican presidential primary this year since there was no race on the Democratic side, so I am stuck with that label. HOWEVER, this being America, it is I who gets to define who I am and I am an Independent.
2) If anyone wants to participate in our conversation, we welcome you. However, we have civil dialogue here. We don't welcome name calling, character assassination, people being demeaned, ridicule, nasty insults, ugly abortion talk, shaming, etc. If you insist on engaging in that level of talk, your comments will be deleted. However, we welcome all voices that choose to converse with some comity and respect.
Ok, back to the conventions. I've had a few days to ponder what happened in the past two weeks and its meaning to women's progress, and I'd have to sum it up this way: there were some bright spots on BOTH sides. For me, an ideal convention for women at this point would be one which chose to highlight the accomplishments of women and then to promote getting more women elected. Both conventions get passing grades on the first and failing grades on the second. And I'd have to give the Republicans a higher grade on the first than the Democrats. And I'm not going to go into the speeches made by Michelle Obama or Ann Romney. I'm only going to reference the elected officials.
If I take off my Pollyanna hat for a minute, I understand the practicalities of the conventions. Both of them were run by the presidential candidates to do what they could to get themselves elected. Using those parameters, the messages they chose to send to women were quite telling. In the end, it was men deciding what ideas about women they felt A) would get them votes and B) would show what they actually think about what women want. Of course, if women got a chance to really SAY what they wanted for themselves and then decide how they wanted that to be highlighted, the outgoing images I believe would be quite different. But it seems that's a long way off for now. In order to have that, the party's nominee has to be a woman, and I don't really see that on the horizon for now. After all, who is there to nominate in 2016? What name comes to mind? Only the name of Hillary Clinton, and that at the moment is an iffy proposition.
So let's start with the Republicans. The reason I give them the higher grade is that they highlighted some of their outstanding elected women in prime time. I've written two pieces about these speeches here and here. Part of the reason the Republicans did a better job is because at least in my lifetime, they have traditionally done a better job of building their bench and bringing their talented politicians up through the ranks. The cynical among us might say that they were only put front and center in prime time because Romney is desperate for getting some women's votes. I truly don't care why those women ended up speaking at length in prime time---it's irrelevant. The fact is that there they were-----outstanding governors, a woman leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, a promising mayor running for Congress, and of course, the second woman ever to be U.S. Secretary of State. We got to see them and hear them. We got to learn about who they are, where they came from, and what they stand for. Their speeches were each unique. They were not simply spitting back the talking points and nothing else. I felt proud to see these outstanding women, and I was proud that for whatever reason, the Republican Party put them there, and that bodes well for the future of women and how far they might be able to go in the Republican Party. That the Republican Party chose so many of their precious prime time minutes introducing us to these women says alot imho about Mitt Romney. I am reminded that when he served as governor of Massachusetts, he had a gender neutral cabinet and a female chief of staff.
The Democrats on the other hand have so many more women to highlight. After all, of the paltry numbers of women in the U.S. Congress, many more of them are Democratic then Republican. The Democrats have the first ever female Speaker of the House who is the party's minority Leader, they have the first ever female Secretary of State, there are more female members of the Senate by far than there are Republicans, and there have been terrific Democratic governors. So what did we get from the Democrats in prime time? We got Sandra Fluke, the head of NARAL, the head of Planned Parenthood, and a candidate for the Senate who has yet to be elected to anything. Where were the actual party superstars? Well, they were given speaking spots all right, but they were as far from prime time as you could get. We had Leader Nancy Pelosi at 7 p.m. EDT, a slot hardly defined as prime time. We never got to see Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at all. And Governor Jennifer Granholm wasn't given a prime slot either. And what about Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a woman whose name is bandied about (for good reason) as a future presidential candidate? She wasn't given any slot at all. The only thing that came close was the time slot allotted to the women of the Senate, and I wrote a piece about that. I was proud to see these wonderful women and proud of what Senator Barbara Mikulski had to say. She was the only woman speaker I heard that said anything about how we need to have more women in government and how all of the problems we face are women's problems (the Republican message to women in fact!! LOL). I found Pelosi's speech campaign boilerplate rehash, nothing about getting more women elected, a little about how being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition (I liked that part).
The Democratic message has been widely reported as abortion rights and reproductive rights. Period. A message soooooo last century which has been written about on my blog by me here and my friend Anna Belle here. You can read up on what many of us think of that important but ultimately very limiting issue. We want to look forward to finishing the feminist agenda of getting women in leadership positions at the top in proportion to our numbers. For years, women stalled out on the Republican side. That is changing, and the Republican convention is another illustration of that. The Democrats are mired in the past. And it is no irony that the Code Pink vaginas might well be all that is remembered about women during the days of the Democratic Convention of 2012. And a postscript to that convention is that the PR campaign of Naomi Wolff's book Vagina: A New Biography got kicked off during the Democratic National Convention. Nothing against the vagina, mind you. Mine has functioned admirably during my lifetime. It's just that there are other female parts (the brain) and other female goals (parity) to keep in mind beyond the microscopic study of our strictly female parts.
The failing grade of both parties of making any big push to get more women in office so our female representation can be proportional to our numbers is where our politics are at in 2012. Both parties have their reasons for not going there, reasons philosophical, or traditional reasons because things have always been done a certain way, reasons institutional. Only one thing can ever overturn these built in obstacles and that is if women AND men demand that more women need to be elected. The first part of a party charter is that parties exist to win elections. And if putting women on the ballot makes parties successful, more women will be on the ballots. A conversation for another day.
My next piece will be about how we can get more women elected in 2012. In the meantime, I'm going back to my hammock to sleep off my post convention coma. I'm feeling brain dead for now......