The idea that really captured and shocked my imagination in 2010 was this: American women are not progressing politically as I would have expected in the early 21st Century. We currently rank 85th in the world for female representation. 85th!
African-Americans, after all, can rightly celebrate political progress. One hundred years after the founding of the NAACP, and 40 years after the civil rights era, America has a black President.
What about the progress of American women? Lulled by Hillary Clinton’s success in garnering 18 million votes for the Presidency and the addition of two new Supreme Court Justices, I hadn’t actually kept up with how far we as American woman have to go to equal the gains of women everywhere else in the world.
Out of 13,000 members of Congress
in our history,
have been women.
~Name It, Change It.
Two things raised my consciousness in 2010. The first was a brand new organization founded by Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda called ‘Name It, Change It’ that points out sexism toward female candidates in the media. I have written here about the stunning effect of seeing America’s media-generated sexism gathered and catalogued on a daily basis. It’s shocking.
If you are an American feminist of either gender, I’d like to ask you to join me in changing the world by “liking” this organization through Facebook. It has taught me a lot. There are still less than 1,460 people who “like” this group. You would be among the cutting-edge politically by doing so. Both my conservative and liberal friends have signed up and been shocked by how dismissively their female candidates have been treated.
Only 31 women
have ever served as Governor
compared with 2,317 men.
~Name It, Change It.
Here’s an example of what they taught me: scholar J.A. Schmitz's wrote an article highlighted through the website that pointed out that America’s system will not result in equal representation for females anytime soon. Why? Because our system is set up to give incumbents an advantage in reelection. Since 90% of incumbents are men, women are at an obvious disadvantage that could take years and years to overcome.
The beautiful Stockholm City Hall
Being an expat has also allowed me to compare the American system with other countries' systems. When I was in Sweden, I asked the Swedish tour guide at Stockholm’s City Hall, “why is it your country has made such incredible progress in electing women?”
My Swedish tour guide told me, “what I have always been told is that in a system that directly elects representatives such as America’s, it practically requires millionaire-status to run for federal office. Because most women are devoting their prime years to running their families rather than making money, most millionaires happen to men. In Sweden, a parliamentary system favors those who do the work. Hence, more females are chosen and elected as representatives of their party.”
Parliamentary systems such as Sweden also lend themselves to quota systems that ensure more female representation. While women are just as underrepresented in cabinet offices in Iraq as American women, their new constitution requires political parties to fill quotas for female representation. I don’t believe in quotas, but I can’t help but think that this minimum level of female representation will be good for women and children in Iraq.
I'll admit, I’m discouraged by what I learned. I thought we would be farther by now. I had no idea how much farther we have to go.
What ideas have captured your imagination in 2010?