By Cynthia Richie Terrell on February 21, 2020
Indeed, the power of women voters and feminist candidates to secure women’s rights is right now on display in Virginia, where the State House and Senate have just voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, making theirs the 38th and final state needed to add women to the Constitution.
For more than two decades, the Virginia House’s right-wing leadership has stopped the ERA from coming to the floor for a full vote. But in the 2017 state legislative election, and again in the 2019 election after a court-mandated redistricting to fix racial gerrymandering, feminist candidates along with women’s votes flipped long-held Republican seats. The result: a Democratic, pro-women’s equality majority in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly for the first time ever. The new speaker, the first woman to hold the position in the 400-year history of the Virginia House, will be feminist Eileen Filler-Corn, and the majority leader will be feminist Charniele Herring, the first African American to be elected chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia.
First put forth in 1923 by suffragist leader Alice Paul, the ERA was finally approved by Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification. Long a priority of the contemporary feminist movement, the ERA now garners nearly universal—more than 90 percent—support among both women and men in the U.S. The drive for ratification was forestalled in 1982, but gained new momentum in 2017 after feminists helped flip both houses of the Nevada legislature from red to blue. Led by state Sen. Pat Spearman, an African American veteran (lieutenant colonel in the Army) and the first openly lesbian member of the Nevada legislature, Nevada voted to become the 36th state to ratify. In 2018, the Illinois Senate and House followed suit, making their state No. 37.
“No question the ERA is finally in the homestretch,” says Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority and publisher of Ms.; she’s been a leader in the ERA ratification effort for nearly five decades. The battle appears likely to shift next to the courts.
As far back as the Reagan presidency, there has been a gender gap in American partisanship with women tilting toward the Democratic Party and men toward the GOP. But the overwhelming change in political party demographics since Trump’s victory in 2016 is the culmination of a long-term movement in party identification and voting behavior among women. With the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, what had been a modest gap of variable proportions has turned into a chasm so wide no Republican presidential candidate will be able to cross it for years to come.
In 2012, according to CNN exit polls, women preferred Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 11 percentage points (55% to 44%). In 2016, Clinton led Trump by 13 points (54% to 41%), but in the 2018 midterm elections women opted for Democratic rather than Republican congressional candidates by 19 points (59% to 40%). More important for the long term, the Democratic margin over the Republicans in party identification grew from six points in 1994 (48% to 42%) to nearly twenty in 2017 (56% to 37%)
Even though the trend toward the Democratic Party among women is most pronounced among college graduates, it is also visible both among those who went to college but didn’t graduate and those with only a high school education. Among voters of each and every racial background and ethnicity, women have increased their identification with the Democratic Party. The effect is most pronounced among America’s younger generations—Plurals (the best name for the generation after Millennials) and Millennials—but a rise in Democratic affiliation, albeit a smaller one, has also occurred among Gen X’ers, Boomers and even Silents, America’s oldest adult generation. The trend may be larger or smaller in each of these categories but always in the same direction.
There was a great profile of the emerging women leaders in the EU on the Leadership League site:
First came the election of Zusanna Caputova as first female president of Slovakia on June 15th, 2019, preceding Mette Frederiksen’s election as Danish prime minister, the second woman to ever hold office, by less than two weeks. Later in the year, Sophie Wilmès became Belgium’s first female (interim) PM when former PM Charles Michel stepped down in October 2019 after being offered the presidency of the European Council, followed by Sanna Marin who became Finland’s third female PM in early December.
Perhaps most significant, were the nominations of Ursula von der Leyen as president of the EC and Christine Lagarde as president of the ECB. Their nominations break with 70 years of male leadership in the EU and mark a significant step forward in bringing gender parity to European politics.
Impressive political careers
Challenging the male-dominated status quo in politics, both Ursula von der Leyen and Christine Lagarde have had impressive political careers leading up to their latest roles.
The online news source 538politics has quite an interesting feature this week on the experiences of women running for office - you can read and listen to what the candidates have to say....
But as Wednesday’s debate wore on, it started to feel like the first one where we were truly grappling with gender dynamics. Not the platonic ideal of a mixed-gender field — a tableau promoting the country’s progress — but how the undercurrents of dismissiveness and frustration and manners play out onstage during an elimination game. Here were two women staring at the less-prepared but more “electable” male candidates next to them, trying to keep the steam from coming out of their ears.
For Warren, that candidate was Bloomberg, who swaggered up to a podium he’d essentially rented for hundreds of millions of dollars, having bypassed all of the debates’ qualifying rules until the rules were simply changed to suit him.
“None of them accused me of anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” Bloomberg said, brushing off past accusations of sexism by falling back on sexism’s most maddening defense: Some women just can’t take a joke.
He went on to praise his hiring and promotion record of female employees, which did not impress Warren.
“I hope you heard what his defense was,” she addressed the audience. “ ‘I’ve been nice to some women.’ ”
Amy Klobuchar’s foil, meanwhile, was Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Ind., mayor whose scrappy rise derailed Klobuchar’s plan for Midwestern domination.
“I am the one — not you, that has won statewide, in congressional district after congressional district,” Kobuchar fired at Buttigieg after he chastised her for being unable to remember the name of Mexico’s president at an earlier event. “When you tried, in Indiana, to run, what happened to you? You lost by over 20 points.”
Turnout was very high among early voters in Nevada this week which is great news! Even more exciting was the state's first use of ranked choice voting ballots for these early voters which apparently went very well! Alaska, Wyoming, Hawaii, and Kansas will be using ranked choice voting on April 4th - read more here.
- Social media platforms were not dominating our lives and democracy during Beijing’s conference in 1995. We have a lot of catching up to do as a result, to better understand the implications of technology on women’s ability to progress on the platform laid out by the CSW.
- In the broader women’s community in the US and globally, we need to more aggressively frame disinformation and its connection to misogyny and the lack of responsibility of the social media platforms to address this.
- Without a demand structure for change, social media platforms will continue to get away with ignoring how women are targeted and harassed online.
- The reality is that women are being deplatformed from democracy when we don’t have safe spaces in which to engage online, especially women in politics.
- This discussion will feature some of the world experts on this topic, including Lucina Di Meca and her report, #ShePersisted, which highlights an artificial intelligence powered analysis of the 2020 primaries showing that female candidates are attacked more often than male candidates by trolls/fake news accounts/bots and there is anecdotal evidence the same is happening in India, Ukraine and Italy.
Last Sunday I dashed to Philadelphia for a quick visit with two of my children - we attended Quaker Meeting in Philadelphia - the same Meeting Lucretia Mott attended - and snapped this photo of ourselves with Mary Dyer (1611 - 1660) a Quaker woman who was hanged by the Massachusetts Bay Colony for her religious beliefs...