Lots has been written about the 2012 General Election results for women. Some reports have referred to the “record number” of women who will be in the 113th Congress. That would be 78 women in the House (17.9%), 5 more than the previous 2008 record. Along with a record number in the Senate — 20 with 4 OPEN SEAT pick-ups, from 17% to 20% remarkably — the total women in Congress amounts to 18.3%, or 1.7% more than the backsliding 2010 results. While women picked up more OPEN SEATS in the House than last time (15 vs. 5, significantly), only 4 women beat incumbents and only 167 women made it through primaries to the General Election for the 435 (x 2 candidates) seats. Indeed, there are still 16 “Taxation without Representation” states that send NO women to Washington; and that’s taking into consideration 3 states (AK, LA & NE) that have a woman Senator, but no women in the House. Moreover, the number of women who will head major House Committees in 2013 will apparently be one (1), and that only under duress. No reasons to rejoice, or to rush more checks to the organizations/parties that claim all the victories without openly recognizing all the facts/underlying causes of questionable gains.
A lot of effort was made and money spent during this election cycle. Yet the U.S. is 82nd in the world (tied with Morocco and Venezuela) for electing women, or #96 if you count the ties. Is it time yet to take a real-world, non-partisan look at why that is, how women have progressed in so many other countries, and who or what has made those gains possible?
If you still do not believe that the disgraceful political status of women in the U.S. is systemic, you might want to finally read my book “Smoke & Mirrors” for more insight. And you might pay attention to the Women’s Campaign Fund and “Straight Up & Unfiltered” confab tomorrow evening in Washington, DC. CEO Siobhan Bennett has gone on record re the need for political parties to guarantee that women will make up no less than 30 percent of their political tickets: “We must have a common purpose, a rising national consciousness that having women elected to office is essential,” she said, “but that national will is completely and totally lacking here.” Amen, Sister!
On November 7th, the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP) wrote a press release stating that “Women’s votes were decisive in Barack Obama’s victory” — with a gender gap of about 10 percent, larger than in any year except 1996 when it was 11 percent. 55 percent of women, but only 45 percent of men, voted for President Obama. Perhaps now our president will finally double down on his rhetoric re the importance of women in our society — with bold initiatives for a real, appropriately-targeted/funded plan from his Democratic Party to elect many MORE women to Congress. Barack Obama can either lead on this critical issue, or end up on the growing list of presidents that have done next to nothing for equal representation in the United States Congress.
Paula Xanthopoulou (equalrepresentation.org)
You can follow me on Twitter @paulax5050 and
read my book Smoke & Mirrors – thank you!