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Equality Starts at Home: US Government STILL Treats Women as Second Class Citizens

By Cheryl Seal

The Bush administration and its pap-pandereing "token female" Laura Bush have been extolling the virtues of US Democratization in the nations we have conquered. Among the things they will point to as a fine US example of liberty is the inclusion of women in politics. But maybe they should have looked in the mirror a little more closely before making such self-righteous claims. A study by the Dutch-based politics and culture magazine ODE tallied the number/percentage of women in the governments of dozens of nations around the world. So did the US come in first in percentage of women reps? Hardly. How about the top ten? Nope, Top twenty? Sorry. In fact, the US ranked an abysmal TWENTY FIVE. Even more humiliating still, it was beat out by those "despotic, backward nations" Cuba, South Africa, Mozambique, Pakistan, China, and North Korea! And, the figures were embarrassing: The percentage of women in the US legislature is just 14.3% By painful contrast, Cuba's percentage is 36%, while Pakistan's and North Korea's are 21.6% and 20.1%, respectively.

But the patriarchal, in fact misogynistic, atmosphere in Washington - always there to an extent - has been dramatically amplified since Bush took office. If you listen to C-SPAN's Congressional hearings, you will notice a clear pattern: When women speak out in a forceful and independent way, they are berated, patronized, or cut off. hardly a model likely to lure strong, bright women into politics! While conservative white males in Congress are excused by their colleagues for outrageously insulting behavior - even obscenities - Nancy Pelosi (just one example) was pilloried by the Repugs for days for stating an unpleasant fact : namely that Bush is stupid. Meanwhile, milksop codependent behavior by women ilegislators is rewarded and promoted. The woman droning on and on in a pandering tone to her white conservative colleagues, singing the praises of G.W. Bush and his anti-woman policies is treated with deference. Susan Collins, Elizabeth Dole, and Lisa Murkowski all come to mind as typical "acceptable" women in the Republican-dominated Congress. Not one would dare defy their male counterparts, even if it is in the best interests of themselves and fellow women. Why bother going to Washington as a woman rep - of any race - if the all you plan to truly represent are white males?

Perhaps the reason that younger women haven't been voting is because they feel they have no connection to the US government. It does not represent them (14% ain't what I'd call representative of what amounts to 51% of the US population!) and it most certainly does not look out for their interests. Women STILL make less than men for the same work; reproductive rights are STILL being assailed; violence against women is STILL being ignored, federal funding for all types of services for women, from health care to child care to crisis counseling is STILL being trimmed.

The new administration - Kerry, of course! - must address this issue. An across the board initiative to promote women's rights and women's participation in the American decisionmaking process must be undertaken. If the government can't address the needs of its majority - namely women - then no wonder it has failed to truly address the needs of its minorities?

Let's make 2004-2008 the dawn of the era of the female....or should I say FREEMALE!

Source material:

"Where Women Rule: A Sample of Female Represntatives in National Legislatures Worldwide"
UTNE Reader, Sept./Oct 2004, page 21; from ODE Magazine; statistics obtained from www.thewhitehouseproject.org