By Cynthia Richie Terrell on March 13, 2016
By Susan Grigsby Daily Kos
Perhaps we should consider women’s struggle for equality to be like the tides—or rather, like ocean waves hitting the shore. Each time we make progress up the beach, we carry away a little of the sand as we recede back into the ocean.
As an example, the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in March 1972. The high water mark for the ERA probably occurred in 1979, when it was only three states short of ratification. We came so close to success before we receded under the gravitational force of the conservative backlash led by Phyllis Shlafly, who peddled the usual lie-based fears about equality for women.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court granted us control of our own bodies. The right to make a medical decision was taken out of the hands of the state and given back to women and their doctors. And for a few, brief years, abortion was as readily available to women as was a Pap smear. Today, unless you are wealthy, or living in a blue state, they are becoming increasingly hard to obtain. And so on another front, the slow erosion of what had once been considered our rights continues.
Meanwhile, this year on International Women’s Day, every single major cable network gave Donald Trump more than an hour for a veritable informercial while Hillary Clinton was giving an uncovered speech in Cleveland. Hello? Anybody there? WTF!?!?! Even Sanders’ campaign called foul:
Today there are 20 female United States senators, according to Fair Vote. Exactly none of them are African-American women. Only 27 states have ever sent a woman to the Senate. Currently, only 17 states have a woman as a senator—including three: Washington, New Hampshire and California, that have two women serving in the Senate.
Representation 2020, from the Center for American Women and Politics, reports that there are 104 women representatives serving in the House, or 19.3 percent. Thirty-three of them are women of color, or 6.2 percent of the total House. Roughly one in five of the members of both Houses of our federal legislature are women.
On the upside, we are no longer ranked 98th in female representation within legislative bodies internationally. We have reached 95th place. Out of 191 countries.
Which still beats the stats from the executive branch, which has never had a woman as a president or a vice president. No woman has ever represented her party as a presidential nominee. Only two have appeared on a national ticket as vice presidential nominees.
There are multiple reasons why women, who are 51 percent of the population, don’t get elected in this country, a self-proclaimed leader of democracy in the free world. Raising money is a serious issue for female candidates, as traditional big-money political donors do not easily give money to women. And when, after much work and persuasion, they finally do (as they have for Hillary Clinton), she is attacked for accepting it. According to the United Nations’ Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women:
The role of money in political campaigns has grown significantly in the last decades and has drastically altered the landscape for elections and political participation. Women’s difficulty in fundraising is considered to result from complex causes. In particular, it is a result of exclusion from the predominantly male political networks that promote funding. It also results from underlying factors, such as negative stereotypes and biased presentation of women in the media, which adversely affect both women’s fundraising ability and their political candidacy.
Speaking of bias in the media, the Women’s Media Center tracks how many of the talking heads on cable television are attached to female bodies. Even though one of the presidential primary candidates is a woman, only Anderson Cooper gave close to equal exposure to women analysts.
Which brings us to the ridiculously offensive scene on MSNBC, in which three men interrupted her speech to seriously discuss the way that Hillary Clinton uses a microphone. Apparently she allows her voice to rise during a speech instead of doing it the way they would. Sorry Lawrence, she is not an actress. And Chris Matthews? Really? You dare to criticize anyone for raising their voice? As Alana Horowitz Satlin wrote for Huffpost Media:
The former secretary of state's speaking voice has long been a topic of conversation. Various pundits, including Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and Fox News' Geraldo Rivera, have referred to her voice as "unpleasant," "unrelaxed" and "bitter." Even Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who also has a tendency to raise his voice, said Clinton's "shouting" was "uncomfortable."
Saying that your discussion is not gender-based does not make it so. The implication is clearly that women are not supposed to raise their voices. Men can shout on the stump all they want and it is considered a passionate defense of ideals. A woman shouts and it is “uncomfortable,” “angry, bitter screaming.” The fact that with her knowledge and expertise she can, and does, run circles around anyone else running in either party is totally, completely ignored. Her tone is what is important.
Interestingly, if Hillary Clinton mentions that she is running to be the first woman president of the United States, she is panned for “playing the sex card.” As if sexism is a relic from the ancient past in which women were not fully represented in our political realm. As if men don’t sit around and discuss her “tone.” As if networks don’t broadcast an hour-long steak commercial from a huckster while ignoring her remarks. As if the votes of women do not consistently give the Democrats the extra points that they need to win elections.
On August 18, 2020, this nation will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which took 40 years to pass and granted women the right to vote. I would dearly love to see a woman, as president, hosting that celebration. The only thing that I want more than to have a woman as president on that day is to have the president be a Democrat. Whoever we nominate will have my vote, because nothing could be worse for this country than to have a Republican in the White House with a majority in both Houses of Congress.
But oh, I would so love to see a woman—someone who looks like me—exercising the power of the presidency.