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Women's Electoral Politics
Women's Electoral Politics
UN Women's Watch
Global Gag Rule
Martha Nussbaum
Women's Well-being

How to Solve the Problem!

I want a choice!
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I believe that to create a change in how women are represented in Electoral Politics is a three fold process: a cultural shift from binary thoughts of gender, a legislative shift from a binary electoral process and a movement toward gender mainstreaming processes. I take this three pronged approach because to change a system you must address several parts of the system, not just one.

The first part of the change is the hardest. Gender is seen in our society as a binary system of male and female with no in between or middle. Instead of seeing gender as a spectrum from one end (female) to another end (male), gender is seen as one or the other. In order for women, transgender individuals and others that do not fit in the binary to be represented visually our system must stop putting gender into two boxes. We need to address the fact that male privilege is alive and present and that doesn't just affect females, it affects everyone that does not fit what a male ought to be in our society. Presidential candidates, including women, present themselves as a model of perfection to their gender. Males are married, happy, handsome, strong-willed, self-made, competitive and fatherly. Women are compassionate, beautiful, married, family oriented, non-aggressive, kind and emotionally driven. Anything that falls outside of those norms makes us feel uncomfortable. For instance, Hilary Clinton wears pant suits, has her hair cut short, she is seen as "bitchy" and aggressive; and at the same time seen as a woman that cannot stand up for herself because she forgave her husband who cheated on her in the white house. Some of those traits make us feel uncomfortable because they do not fit into what we want to see as a woman. Yet, if she was more "feminine" I am sure that certain people will say she is not strong enough, too emotional, etc. This type of change is difficult, but we need to be aware the society we live in teaches to fit into a gender role box and people outside of those boxes continue to be underrepresented.

The second problem is our two party electoral system. There are several problems that exist with this system but the most glaring problem is the lack of women represented because of exactly what Dr. Aulette spoke about, incumbency and "fitting into an old boys club." Government is notoriously known for the rich, white males that created and still preside over our government. Like any social entity, trying to break an "old boys club" takes time and is challenging. The two party system makes it even more difficult because they are each "old boys clubs" and each are rarely sensitive to women's needs or concerns. Any woman that tries to run has to be bigger, richer, smarter and faster than the other men to show her abilities. The men simply have to be status quo. For some reason we expect that if women run they need to make "major" changes and do so much better than the men. We expect that if a woman takes office she needs to really show her stuff and make things better or else, we will see no point in changing from male to a female. Instead of believing that there is something wrong with our system or maybe that the problems are so complex and money so important that we can't expect a woman to make major changes in a system that doesn't necessarily make it easy.

I think this was made very clear by the conversation that we had in class. A student in class stated that she doesn't think it's time for woman "because the system is so screwed up and we need to get back to democracy...and then a woman can take charge." I know this student is extremely liberal and notably feminist but she has made the argument for people that don't want to see a woman in office. Why can't a woman be the best person for the job in this turmoil and struggle? What must a man fix the system so a woman can come in? It is one thing to say that you don't like Hillary but it is quite another to say we are not ready, because when will we be ready? Sometimes change needs to be forced upon a society for the betterment and progressiveness of a government. We see this reflected in an the example of slavery. If people did not force this change it might not have happened if we were waiting for the right time.

The last aspect to move forward with women in government is a shift in thinking. We as a country to do not spend enough time thinking through the policies we create and pass to address how they affect gender. Since we do not live a society or world that cannot create gender neutral focus then we need a program that thinks about how gender is affected. I agree with some type of gender mainstreaming for our government to be called to the carpet with policies that hinder the progress of either gender. I dislike calling this process gender watchdogs because it presents such a negative connotation toward the idea of trying to measure how a government treats all of it's members.

Where Do My Ideas Fit?

After the presentation, it was clear that my ideas fit squarely in the Radical movement. I could have guessed this because my three-pronged approach helps me see how the change can happen but it also creates a complicated and long process of change of thought, morals, ideas and behavior along with an overhaul of our political electoral processes and ideals. The one idea I do not think is radical and is now implemented in several countries that have adopted the gender mainstreaming policy.

This is the one part of my idea that seem reasonable, tangible and a serious move toward acknowledging our impartial policy making and at least an attempt to address the fact that our policy makers are primarily white males. I am not saying that males do not fight for women's rights but often they see gender as black and white and policies that don't always involve gender directly may be overlooked by a gender that will not negatively be affected by the policy. Personally, I think we are at a point in politics where only a radical change will produce tangible affects. Like one of the students in class so eloquently pointed out "...we are screwed up" in more than one way and maybe we do not someone that puts a different face to who we are and take away our Texas cowboy image and replace it with a respectful, strong image of an American woman.

mtappy/WMST 5050