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The Year of the Woman

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It wasn’t too long ago that Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both from California, broke the glass ceiling along with other women candidates – Carol Moseley Braun comes to mind, but there were others. And it was surely heralded in the media as “the year of the woman.”

Naturally, we were excited. It meant a radical shift in the direction of American politics, if not in substance then in spirit. No more immoral wars. No sweat shops if we could help it, whether at home or abroad. Equal rights for each and every one, citizens and “illegals” alike. Women are the epitome of the spirit of compassion, of the maternal instinct, and surely the proponents of fair play — so we were told. Things were bound to get better, especially in light of the oppressive, Republican regime in the White House and both Houses. Wrong!

Then came Nancy Pelosi. Madame Speaker, can you imagine the form of address? The entire establishment, white ole boys and all, was stood on its head. I’m not here to defend Ms Pelosi’s performance in her coveted role, only to register the reaction.

The last draw was Hillary, yes, the same Hillary who opted for wearing a business suit lest she be criticized for her unseemly ankles. It didn’t work, the put-downs came down regardless. She was demonized by all and all alike, her own party and the opposition. “Get Hillary” was the daily mantra. Nothing was below the belt. She was fair game.

Enter Sarah Palin, the GOP wild card. The thinking was, the aging McCain needed a booster; besides, the Republicans wanted to prove their tent was large enough for minority candidates. True to form, Ms Palin was unjustly attacked, this time by the liberal camp. How could a part-time housewife be a heartbeat away from the presidency, was on everyone’s mind. We didn’t know about Sister Sarah’s intelligence quotient then, but that’s beside the point. She was attacked just the same.

Two years into Obama’s presidency, and one would think the Republicans had a change of heart about minorities and all that. Apart from Michael Steele, the Republican equivalent of Obama, there are women everywhere. Sarah Palin herself has come of age. Having effectively freed herself of McCain’s apron strings, she became the Tea Party’s darling. And now, we come to the recent primaries.

Judging by the spin, you would think June 11 was the turning point in American politics. From California, New Mexico and South Carolina, including the beleaguered Lincoln Blanchet from the conservative state of Arkansas, women scored big in the key-states primaries. Even Cynthia Tucker, usually a levelheaded columinist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and many times a Pulitzer Prize nominee, couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. For full story, see discussion on National Public Radio.

How soon we forget! Americans have a knack for reinventing themselves, and nobody does it better than our politicians. Since the “hope ‘n change” finesse set the Democrats down one trick and counting, it’s the Republicans’ turn (all the easier, I should think, since the precedent has been set).

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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About Roger Nowosielski

  • Hey, late to the party, but I just got the link from roger. This is an interesting take. I wonder how many “years” would turn up if someone put “year of the woman” in a search engine. IIRC, that year for the Oscars (I moonlight as a classics buff) was also proclaimed year of the woman blah blah.

    I would say, we’re stuck with young women viewing the Bachmanns and Palins as role models. But it didn’t begin with them and certainly will not end with them, though they do a lot of loud yelling. They also come from yelling traditions, specifically neo-pentecostalism (roger knows this is my angle.) So they are really part of a larger trend in American religion.

    They’re going to have to crap or get off the pot, though. Palin is trying to refashion motherhood in predatory terms, pit bulls/hockey, mama bears, stampeding pink elephants, etc.

    Problem with that is, those metaphors fall short and really come back to bite them in the bottom. What traditional woman wants to be thought of as a b*tch, Smokey’s mom, or drunken cow?

  • From your keyboard to God’s monitor, Roger.

  • Well, Silas, perhaps the Gulf of Mexico disaster will make some people rise to the occasion.

  • I understand that, Roger. I guess the point I failed to drive home is that the “quality” of female GOP candidates has devolved. The women I highlighted from RI are pioneers and have incredible accomplishments. They broke the glass ceiling in Little Rhody, rose up to the challenges without using their gender and in some cases made a huge difference. These women are the silent heroes who go largely unnoticed in feminist circles. Why? Because they were Republican.

    Among the women I highlighted, Lila Sapinsley stands out most in my mind. First of all I correct her position. She was Senate Minority Leader in the RI Senate. She came from that section of Providence where the greatest minds and educators in the Northeast resided. And once she left politics she gave back so much to the community by her philanthropy and her pure dedication to the lives of Rhode Islanders.

    Women in politics today would do well to study the role of Rhode Island women in the state political process. In 1966, the RI GOP nominated a female to run for US Senate. Females dominated in the 80’s under the Reagan Republican Party. A former aide to Sen. Dick Lugar once remarked to me that Rhode Island is a great study for political junkies. He questioned the wisdom of pundits back then in looking toward Ohio as being a bellwether state saying that Rhode Island was the quintessential microcosm of the nation’s state of mind. I don’t know the wisdom of his assessment but I will say that RI has had its share of scandals and political intrigue.

    In looking at the women who dominate the GOP today, I can’t find one among them who are even worthy of the praise and admiration I have for Ms. Sapinsley and her GOP counterparts. There remain many a glass ceiling which need to be broken for women. But the women of the GOP today just don’t have what it takes. Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Sarah Palin are poor role models for young women today. So, if there are young politically minded women reading your piece, I urge them to study the women of the RI GOP in the 80’s. That which they discover will be far more valuable than trying to emulate Michelle Bachmann.

  • Was glued to C-Span hearings, Silas, hence a belated response.

    You know I wasn’t minimizing women’s contribution to politics, only parodying the process.

  • Whitman v. Brown (who was either precociously young the first time he was governor in the 70s or is a fossil now) should be an interesting one come November.

    Whatever the outcome, I think ultimately Californians lose.

  • Interesting you bring up the “Year of the Woman”, Roger. As I’ve watched the politics of 2010 unfold I am eerily reminded of Rhode Island politics in the early 80’s. When Ronald Reagan came to office, RI’s GOP was barely breathing. A group of courageous women sprung forward from the GOP to populate the ballots for state office. Claudine Schneider went on to oust the controversial Ed Beard in the pivotal 1980 election. In 1982, Susan Farmer became the first female Secretary of State. By 1984, Arlene Violet a former nun (forced to lift the veil by Bishop Louis “Jello Mold” Gelineau) became the first woman elected Attorney General. Barbara Leonard, a prominent businesswoman, challenged Claiborne Pell and lost but went on to serve as Secretary of State. And RI political history buffs cannot mention the glorious women in politics without remembering Lila Sapinsley the GOP House Minority Leader who went on to run for Lt. Governor and lost. Until the day I die I will never meet another human being with a firmer handshake than Susan L. Farmer.

    These women were the female pioneers of Rhode Island politics and all happened to be members of the GOP. Back then there was a distinction between the parties. RI Democrats were considered far more conservative than their Republican counterparts. Remember, the RI GOP was dominated by folks in the mold of the great Senator John Chaffee. Each of these women, in their own way, contributed to the tapestry that was Little Rhody. I knew them all spending significant time working to help them get elected. The difference between those women I celebrate and the women who dominate the GOP today? Character and intelligence.

  • Whether it means a sea-change or not, I’m just glad that Meg Whitman saw off the thoroughly unpleasant Steve Poizner in the California GOP governor’s primary.

    Whitman v. Brown (who was either precociously young the first time he was governor in the 70s or is a fossil now) should be an interesting one come November.

  • Thanks, Cindy. I’m glad you’re alive and well. Will look at it shortly in respond.

    Meanwhile, I’m looking at C-Span coverage of the Congressional Hearings with BP’s CEO.

    Fascinating. Another short article coming about shortly.

  • The gaining of status and success within, and as determined by, an oppressive system. How is this liberation?

    Women will not change the system. The system will change women.

    How do you answer this question, Roger?

  • Good article, Roger. This video is sort of repulsive in its entirety. Not very funny. But it makes an ironic point anyway: First Female Dictator Hailed As Step Forward For Women.

  • Jamminsue,

    Not to disagree with you. The point of the article was that most of what passes for politics these days is hype.

    I don’t know much about Sharon Angle, but then again, I don’t have great respect for Harry Reid either. From what little I know, he is a sellout.

  • jamminsue

    I live in Nevada, and can tell you if the Tea Party hadn’t given Angle money, she would not have been in the running.

  • jamminsue

    Humanity is flawed by its nature; what to look for is someone who understands that and tries to rise above it…statistacally, that is a small part of humanity and those kids of people are probably not stupid enough to run for public office.

  • You can re-invent the wheel, but if it’s still a politician, I’m still wary. Our recent history has shown us that there are NO messiahs, only flawed human beings put into positions of incredible power.

  • John Lake

    And how about that Sharon Angle! A staunch Tea Party ultra-conservative who would restore prohibition, and put guns in the hands of the Tea people for an assault on that minority figure in the White House. She really means it. She makes no reference to a “standing militia”; she says the constitution gave us guns so we can remove the government if it becomes intolerable. And she appears to believe, the time is now! She wants to “take out” Harry Reid, Nevada’s incumbent Democratic senator. Does she want to “off” him?