March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams proposed “a new code of laws” to her husband John, that he and others in the Continental Congress prioritize the interests of women as they prepared to fight for American independence from Great Britain.
“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.”
It is said that Abigail was so opinionated, and held such influence over her husband, that critics mockingly dubbed her… “Mrs. President.” Considering the women’s uprising, or rebellion of sorts this year, brought on in the #MeToo Movement – it makes Abigail Adams letter all the more prophetic.
John Adams, by the way, never did adopt her “new code of laws.” All things being equal, why is it so important to strive for equal representation in government? There’s the obvious answer – all things aren’t equal. And, there’s also the logical and most convincing answer – because women bring to the table priorities that are informed by their life experiences and implement
policy accordingly – just as men’s priorities are shaped by their own life experiences.
Look no further than the former vice chair of the Wasatch County, Utah, Republican Party, James Green… his life experiences informed an op-ed he wrote in February of last year, in which he opposed a bill that would commission a study on the pay gap between male and female workers.
He wrote: “Traditionally men have earned more than women in the workplace because they are considered the primary breadwinners for families. They need to make enough to support their families and allow the Mother to remain in the home to raise and nurture the children.
If businesses are forced to pay women the same as male earnings, that means they will have to reduce the pay for the men they employ, simple economics. And as even more women thus enter the workforce that creates more competition for jobs (even men’s jobs) and puts further downward pressure on the pay for all jobs, meaning more and more Mothers will be forced into the workforce. And that is bad for families and thus for all of society.”
As you can imagine, the op-ed ignited a fire storm of controversy, forcing James to offer an apology in which he wrote, “Of course, Women’s contributions in the workplace are just as valuable as any one else’s… While I worked my fingers to the bone (with numerous extra side jobs) so my Wife could stay in the home and raise our two Sons, who are now both Physician/Surgeons (plus one also has a Law Degree), I realize not everyone is so fortunate.”
No Mr. Green, not everyone is so fortunate. Nor – thankfully – are they so oblivious to the realities of the 21st Century. Historically women have always been at the cutting edge of social and political evolution, from abolition, to suffrage, to labor, to civil rights to LGBTQ rights, all the way to #MeToo and #TimesUp.
In one study, three political scientists crunched all 138,246 bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives over the past four decades. They found women introduced twice as many bills on civil rights and liberties bills; many more on “family” concerns; and significantly more on labor, immigration, education, and health.
The wave of women running towards the midterms this year – are singing in unison – The time is NOW for us to lead this country in a new direction – to heal the wounds of division and prioritize the issues that are of paramount concern to mothers, daughters, sisters and by extension, to the families of America. As a rule, and according to research from the Brookings Institute, women candidates are focused on domestic issues, while the men are focused on international and business issues. States with women in government have better schools, better health care and lower incarceration rate. And, according to American journal of Political Science, women are more collaborative and tend to cross party lines more often.
If all of this isn’t enough to justify the critical need for more women in government…, you’re more concerned about, say, experience than gender (?)– just take a look at the experience of the candidates running this year. According to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on opinion poll analysis, politics and economics – 56% of the women who are running for governorships have previous experience as elected officials, compared with just 37% of men. And, 80% of women running for Senate have previously held elected office, compared with just 22% of men.
In August, the “Center for American Women and Politics” published a scholarly book called, “A Seat at the Table: Congresswomen’s Perspectives on Why Their Presence Matters.” In it, the three authors from Rutgers use personal interviews of more than two-thirds of the women serving in Congress between 2015-2017, to illuminate how women both experience and affect Congress.
The women they interviewed explained that “without women in Congress, gendered experiences, perspectives, and issues might not enter the debate or receive the attention they deserve.” And, add to that the fact that, “women of color pursue an “expanded agenda” that addresses gender inequality as well as racial inequality.”
They write that women on both sides of the aisle “in Congress see an obligation to broaden the public’s image of politicians, be role models for other women and girls, and tap other women to run.” And, they offer, that, “despite significant partisan polarization in Congress, they find that women in Congress can feel a sense of comradery with their colleagues across the aisle on the basis of gender.”
If enough women get elected in 2018, we could see significant changes to the congressional agenda. The wave of women running this year isn’t simply a reaction to Trump. It is potentially about systemic change for the whole country. In our Candidate Spotlight, meet Jovanka Beckles, a candidate who immigrated to the US from Panama in 1972 who is changing the face of what leadership looks like.
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