Thursday, August 05, 2004

American women lack access to positions of political power.

Why you’re right:

1. The United States lags behind other nations in female elected officials. Out of 119 countries recently surveyed, the U.S. ranked 57th in proportion of women in the lower house of Parliament. Although we advocated provisions in the Iraqi and Afghani constitutions that aim for women in 25% of seats, women make up only 22% of state legislators and an appalling 14% in Congress. (The Boston Globe)

2. Combat experience still plays an all-too-prominent role in political campaigns. As David Brooks wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “It also seems clear, looking at our history, that combat heroism is not an essential qualification for a wartime leader. It's much more important to have the political courage that Lincoln had and Kennedy celebrated.” Yet this presidential contest remains largely one of masculinity, pitting Kerry’s Vietnam heroism against Bush’s macho cowboy appeal. As long as races are cast in these terms, women will not be able to win in equal numbers. (New York Times)

3. Americans are especially uncomfortable with the idea of women in the executive branch. While voters may be able to see women working cooperatively, as legislators do, women are viewed as lacking the strength and decisiveness necessary for unilateral decisionmaking. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Why they’re wrong:

Apologists for this situation claim that it will take time for women’s political power to catch up with the strides made by the feminist movement since the 70s. Yet this does not appear to be true – numbers of women in Congress and state legislatures have essentially stagnated in the last decade. 86% of elected officials under thirty-five years old are male. The one encouraging trend is in statehouses, eight of which are now occupied by female governors. The fundamental problem is that our very concept of power seems to exclude qualities traditionally associated with femininity, and until that concept changes, women will not have as much influence as their proportion of the population and the voting population indicates that they should. (The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle)