The Year of the Woman: Then and Now

The Year of the Woman: Then and Now

(A version of this article was published in Blogcritics on June, 2010)

I

It wasn’t too long ago that Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both from California, broke the glass ceiling along with other women candidates – Carol Moseley Braun comes to mind, but there were others. And it was heralded in the media as “the year of the woman.”

II

Naturally, we were excited. It meant a radical shift in the direction of American politics, if not in substance then in spirit. 

No more immoral wars! No sweatshops if we could help it, whether at home or abroad! Equal rights for all, citizens and “illegals” alike!  

Women are the epitome of the spirit of compassion, of the maternal instinct, and surely the proponents of fair play — or so the story goes. Things were bound to get better, especially in light of the oppressive, Republican regime in the White House and both Houses. 

Wrong!

III

Then came Nancy Pelosi. Madame Speaker. Can you imagine the form of address? The entire establishment, white ole boys and all, was stood on its head. I’m not here to defend Ms. Pelosi’s performance in her coveted role, only to register the reaction.

IV

The last draw was Hillary — yes, the same Hillary who’d opted for wearing a business suit lest she be criticized for her unseemly ankles. It didn’t work! The put-downs came down regardless. She was demonized by all and all alike, her own party and the opposition. 

“Get Hillary” was the daily mantra. Nothing was below the belt. She was fair game.

V

Enter Sarah Palin, the GOP wild card. The thinking was, the aging McCain needed a booster; besides, the Republicans wanted to prove their tent was large enough for minority candidates. 

True to form, Ms. Palin was unjustly attacked, this time by the liberal camp. How could a part-time homemaker be a heartbeat away from the presidency was on everyone’s mind. 

We didn’t care about Sister Sarah’s intelligence quotient then, but that’s beside the point. She was attacked just the same.

VI

Two years into Obama’s presidency, and one would think the Republicans had a change of heart about minorities and all that. Apart from Michael Steele, the Republican equivalent of Obama, there are women everywhere. 

Sarah Palin herself had come of age. Having freed herself of McCain’s apron strings, she became the Tea Party’s darling. And now, we come to the recent primaries.

VII

Judging by the spin, you would think June 11 was the turning point in American politics. From California, New Mexico, and South Carolina, including the beleaguered Blanche Lambert from the conservative state of Arkansas, women scored big in the key-states primaries. Even Cynthia Tucker, usually a levelheaded columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and many times a Pulitzer Prize nominee, couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. 

For the full story, see the discussion on National Public Radio.

VIII

Americans have a knack for reinventing themselves, and nobody does it better than our politicians. 

Since the “hope ‘n change” finesse set the Democrats one trick down and counting, it’s the Republicans’ turn — all the easier, I should think, since the precedent has been set!

The more things change, the more they remain the same. 1

Notes

  1. Since 2010, the day of this publication, this trend has been nothing but upwards. The 2021-2023 House of Representatives features 31 Republican congresswomen and 90 on the Democrat side. In terms of the percentages, it comes down to 31 percent and 40.1 percent respectively — compared to their male counterparts. It’s quite an improvement from the composition of the 2009-2011 House. Then, 21.5 percent was the corresponding percentage for the Republican- and Democrat congresswomen alike. When it comes to today’s US Senate, we have 25 women senators (17 Democrats and 8 Republicans) — twenty-five percent of the entire body. Again, compared to the 2009 Senate composition by gender, 17 women senators to 83 men, it’s a considerable uptick as well. The numbers, of course, don’t tell the whole story. On the plus side, Ms. Pelosi is still Madame Speaker, and “The Squad,” headed by Alexandra Ocasio Cortez (aka AOC), is a promising development. On the negative, the age of Trump opened the doors to the most unlikely candidates — of which, the congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, must count as the greatest of aberrations. And so, the jury is still out as to whether the gender factor will have a significant and lasting impact on the quality of American politics. We can only hope.  

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