Political scientist Valerie M. Hudson wrote: “Men agreed to be ruled by other men in return for all men ruling over women.” It is because of male domination at home and in the political arena that women’s march toward full equality has been painfully slow and tortuous.
This year 110 women, nearly all Democrats, were sworn in as members of Congress. Among them is 29-year-old Alexandra-Ocasio-Cortez of New York who has cheerfully taken arms against the cavemen, including Caveman-in- Chief Donald Trump. At the same time, Nancy Pelosi has regained her gavel as Speaker of the House and Elizabeth Warren has stepped forward as a Presidential candidate.
Our valiant “leader” has taken up arms. He is leading the battle against women as he revives his kindergarten tactics of name calling and personal insult. Trump has also boasted of groping and making unwanted advances toward women. Other politicians have had to leave the political scene after admissions of sexual harassment, but Trump survives (for now), sitting defiantly in his chair with arms crossed and glaring.
During the campaign, Trump tried to silence two women by paying them off. But Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal have now told their stories and others have been encouraged to speak up.
In the global arena, dictators have bolstered their power using overt sexism. In Brazil, newly elected President Jair Bolsanaro includes in his “revolution” the fight against “uppity women.” In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte allowed his soldiers to each rape three women on the island of Mindanao. Viktor Orban in Hungary instructs women to bear more children. In Italy the right-wing regime seeks to eliminate child support and domestic violence laws.
Of course, it isn’t just now. During the French Revolution, the next order of business after toppling the monarchy was to ban women from inheriting property and holding senior teaching jobs. When fighting for their rights and liberties men have a willful blind spot. They do not include women in their demands and even go out of their way to remind them of their inferior status.
Before we give in to despair, let me mention that there are countries in Western Europe where women have a significant representation in Parliaments: 48% in Iceland, 44% in Sweden, 42% in Finland and 40% in Norway. These countries have a long tradition of gender equality at home with household chores and child-rearing shared equally. I think this is part of the reason for the political equality in these Parliaments.
Research shows the women in Congress have been more effective than their male counterparts at securing spending for their districts (The New Yorker, January 2019). This is good news for possible infrastructure projects.
Whenever and wherever possible we should find ways to contribute to the advancement of women in politics. This can only lead to the betterment of women overall.
Here are some names and links to organizations that help women run for political office at all levels: