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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation April 20, 2018

Barbara Bush died this week: Peter Baker writes this beautiful story about her courage and determination in the The New York Times
Dear friends,

Kristina Wilfore has launched a new podcast called Fatima's Hand that will profile "change agents across the globe fighting for women's equality. Combining politics with everyday activism, hear inspiring stories and practical advice from women in the Middle East, Africa and Europe." The first episode features an interview with a 23 year-old woman who ran for the Nairobi Senate. You can find Fatima's Hand on SoundCloud as well
And more talk of quotas from a story on Aljazeera about elections in Tunisia - which currently ranks 43rd for women's representation worldwide, with 31% women elected to the lower house:

Not all is doom and gloom in the North African state. A law on local elections adopted in early 2017 - a long and tedious process first announced in 2014 - provides for unprecedented levels of participation for youth, women and disabled people.

The law's prescription of vertical and horizontal parity will arguably enhance women's already well-established role in Tunisian society.

In addition to alternating between men and women within party lists, the new regulations require that both genders be equally represented at the top of these lists.

This is in response to flaws in previous parity systems where political parties ended up presenting male candidates at the top of their lists followed by female candidates - satisfying only basic tenets of parity - out of fear that female candidates were not popular enough to propel their parties to power.

Still, Aliriza thinks parity systems are not bulletproof, and there are still ways for politicians to hack the system.

"In practice, 'gender parity' does not mean literally what it suggests. For example, many parties may run women as heads of lists in areas they believe they will likely lose anyway, so female representation may end up being higher than it would have been without the 'gender parity' laws but still not actual parity."

The election authority did not hesitate to take action where the new gender criteria had not been met and proceeded to issue stern warnings to Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes when they committed one and 14 irregularities respectively.

The Washington Post wrote about Rep Barbara Comstock's re-election campaign today - as a reminder, Rep Comstock is the only woman elected to the House from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia combined - that's 40 districts with one woman. That may change a little this November but the under-representation of women will continue:

Julie Conway, executive director of VIEW PAC, the fundraising arm for GOP women in the House and Senate, said donors like Comstock because she wins in a purple district perennially targeted by Democrats.

She speaks to issues that play well in her suburban district at a time when suburban female voters are abandoning the GOP, including opioid addiction and gang activity.

In a swing district where each party has about 40 percent of the vote locked up, Comstock is betting she can win over western Fairfax and Loudoun newcomers on policy and constituent services — and disassociating herself from Trump.

The only female member of Congress from Virginia and Maryland, Comstock has a great political mind, Conway said.

The day after her 2014 win, Comstock hosted a reception at her home, but while her guests celebrated, Conway found her sitting at a desk in the hallway.

She was poring over precinct results.

“It defines who she is,” said Dan Scandling, former chief of staff to Wolf. “When she bites into something, she doesn’t let it go.”

Shikanda Kawanda writes in the Zambia Daily Mail about the need for systems reforms, including aggressive quotas, to accelerate the pace of progress toward gender parity in that nation - another reminder of the sophisticated conversations about winning gender parity happening around the world - Zambia ranks 112th in women's representation just 10 spots behind the US that ranks 102nd as of March 2018:
The truth is that gender equity cannot be achieved in the absence of proactive policies, and such policies have to be mainstreamed into every sector and programme.The various impediments that prevent women from participating fully and equitably in development have to be removed. It is important to note that the Zambian government has been proactive in working towards the attainment of gender parity. This is why Zambia adopted the first National Gender Policy (NGP) in 2000 to enable both women and men to participate in the development process at all levels, to ensure sustainable development.
The adoption of the NGP was a major yardstick for measuring Government’s commitment to gender mainstreaming. Through the policy, Government committed itself to changing many stereotypes that impinge on women’s participation in national development by taking appropriate legal and administrative measures to eliminate discrimination.
It’s now about 18 years since the NGP was adopted, and impediments such as lack of access to land, credit, unequal opportunities for employment, wage disparities and marginalisation in decision-making processes are still visible. Therefore, a potential avenue worth trying out is the implementation of quotas in all organisations. A quota system is where all positions are shared equally among males and females of that particular organisation or group.
For example, if the chairperson is female, then her vice should be male, and if there are four positions, then two should be given to females and the other two to men...
It is important to note that the quota system can play a pivotal role in making women’s talent and experience visible. All impediments should be redressed if gender parity is to be realised.
Policies that champion gender parity should also be mainstreamed into every sector and programme...
The need to employ new techniques that will bring desired results in the fight for gender equity and equality should be embraced by all goal-oriented organisations. According to the United Nations under secretary-general and executive director for Women Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, it will take another 50 years to achieve gender equality in the political sphere at the current rate of change. Patiently waiting for that to happen is not an option. Tough measures are needed, quotas for women in parliamentary meetings are the most important.

The lead editorial in The New York Times this morning was devoted to coverage of the renewed push for the Equal Rights Amendment:

Having a sexist in the Oval Office who curries favor with conservative religious groups is having dire consequences. Health workers in developing nations are preparing for a rise in unsafe abortions due to President Trump’s reinstatement of the global gag rule that prohibits federal funding of groups that provide abortion services or referrals. Here at home, his administration has been hostile not only to abortion access, but even to birth control.

But Mr. Trump’s presidency is also having some effects he probably doesn’t intend. Rage at the election of a man who boasted about grabbing women’s genitals helped set off the #MeToo movement’s reckoning with sexual misconduct. A record number of women are running for office around the country, many of them announcing their candidacies after participating in women’s marches the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

And now, on Mr. Trump’s watch, feminists could reach a goal nearly a century in the making, and that many assumed would never come to pass — ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. It states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The fight centers on Illinois, where the State Senate recently passed a bill to ratify the E.R.A. If the State House of Representatives also passes the legislation — supporters hope to see a vote next month, and are cautiously optimistic about the outcome — then Illinois will become the 37th state to ratify the amendment.

I thought this analysis of the first female president's attributes were pretty on target - so much so that I will share the whole piece:

The first female president will be bald. This will be permissible, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower went completely bald during his first presidential term. Also during his first term, Eisenhower suffered a heart attack, was hospitalized for eight weeks, and was elected to his second term in a landslide victory. Were a female president to be hospitalized for even eight days during her presidency, she’d definitely be re-elected and not seen as fragile or weak.

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The first female president will love pork rinds. She’ll love pork rinds so much, in fact, that she’ll mention it in an interview with Time Magazine, just as President George H.W. Bush did in 1988. Pork rind sales around the country will skyrocket, as they did in ‘88, and not a single think piece on her diet will be published.

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The first female president will go through chewing tobacco like it’s candy. Folks will be hard pressed not to find her bottom lip bursting at the seams with the stuff, and if the habit ever affects her public image, it won’t. She’ll challenge foreign dignitaries to spitting contests and brag of her ability to hit a spitoon as far as six feet away. Neither she, nor President Zachary Taylor, will ever be called “trashy.” Like Taylor, her nickname will be “Ol’ Rough and Ready” and it won’t have a thing to do with sex.

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The first female president will be single. Like President James Buchanan, she’ll never once be asked about her biological clock, when she plans on settling down or whether she simply “plays for the other team.” Like Buchanan, historians will wait until she dies to start assuming she was gay.

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The first female president will insist upon keeping a crocodile in the Lincoln Bathroom’s vintage clawfoot bathtub. She’ll need the crocodile because she wants the crocodile, and her request will go uncontested. She won’t be called a “crazy crocodile lady,” or a “witch,” or a “diva,” or “impractical,” or “difficult,” just as President John Quincy Adams was never called any of these things for keeping a live crocodile in the White House’s master bathroom for the entirety of his term.

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The first female president will be emotional. So emotional, in fact, that she’ll pay homage to President James Monroe by chasing her Secretary of the Treasury out of White House while waving a pair of white-hot fireplace tongs. Nobody will ask if she’s on her period.

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The first female president will sleep with her subordinates. All of them. Or, none of them. Nobody really knows. But everyone will pretty much agree that she slept with at least one intern. After her impeachment, the first female president will leave with the highest end-of-office approval ratings in U.S. history, receive a $19 million book deal and speak at every Democratic National Convention for the next twenty years. Over the years, the public will gradually blame the affair on her husband and his inability to keep her satisfied. The intern’s livelihood will be ruined.

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The first female president will have five children by three different men. Nobody will care. Her extramarital affairs with porn stars will be a matter of public record. She won’t be called a slut. She’ll be accused by 19 people of sexual assault. It won’t affect her political standing in the slightest. She’ll be caught on tape saying that she likes to “grab men by the dick.” It’ll pretty much blow over in a few weeks. The first female president will threaten nuclear war against an unstable adversary, fire the FBI director investigating her for treason, feud with more than one family of a dead U.S. soldier, defend white supremacists, attempt to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., encourage the public to find a sex tape belonging to a Miss Universe contestant and accuse her predecessor of literally founding ISIS, one of the largest and deadliest terrorist factions in the world.

The first female president will be rotten to her core — arguably the most selfish and incompetent person we’ve ever elected into public office. Rather than becoming an example of what happens when you elect a woman into a position of power, though, around half of the public will simply deem her a breath of fresh air and continue to elect women as U.S. presidents until the end of time.

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At a time when her approval ratings are at an all-time high, the first female president will skip out on makeup for a day. She will be impeached.

The US Senate voted to allow Senator Tammy Duckworth to bring her infant daughter with her into the chamber this week - an example of the legislative rules changes necessary for women to serve alongside men as equals:

Cradled in the arms of her mother, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, baby Maile (pronounced My-lee) now has the distinction of being the first infant ever brought onto the Senate floor. Ms. Duckworth brought her daughter to work so that she could be with her baby and vote against the confirmation of a new NASA administrator. (Ms. Duckworth, too, has made history, by becoming the first senator to give birth while in office.)

Tough-minded and staid senators cooed and fussed. “She’s so beautiful,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, exclaimed. Reporters, looking down from the balcony, responded with a collective “aaawwww.” (“The press is finally interested in something worthwhile,” Mr. Schumer quipped.)

Even Senator Mitch McConnell, the ordinarily dour Republican leader from Kentucky, gave a little wave and smiled.

Maile’s arrival was the product of several months of behind-the-scenes negotiation in the hidebound Senate, whose rules until Wednesday barred children from coming onto the Senate floor. A few months after Ms. Duckworth announced she was pregnant, she asked Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the senior Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, to help her engineer a rule change, necessary because senators are required to vote in person.

Don't forget to tune in to To The Contrary for timely commentary from women thought leaders from across the partisan spectrum!

​And another week of great news about FairVote's work on ranked choice voting from Rob Richie:


* Maine's Supreme Court unanimously upheld use of ranked choice voting in the June 12th primary at the same time voters will decide on whether to keep RCV. We're doing various work with the implementation-RCV folks.
* St. Louis Park (MN) became the 2nd city this year to adopt ranked choice voting, following on heels of Amherst (MA). Neither is quite yet final, but seen as a formality at this point. That puts us up to 15 cities, with more to come.
* We're moving forward on various hires, including three in New Mexico and Utah after Arnold Foundation approved redirection of project spending from Maine to those states and California. See latest job announcements here.
* Interesting press keeps coming. Summarized a lot of it in our eblast last week. Other examples include USA Today running a good overview piece today and Robert Reich doing a nifty Facebook video (at least good for Democratic audiences).
That's all for now!



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