On candidates, policy and women.

Carla Axtman

We are, to state the obvious, in a time of great political upheaval and discontent. People are pissed off, and for good reason. There's an entire laundry list of public and private sector misbehavior and in large part, we've yet to have a reckoning for this malfeasance. Many of us voted to move the country in a new, post-Bush direction only to find ourselves still neck-deep in a good number of those really bad policies. And after this week's contrived debt ceiling Tea Party hostage situation, I get the sense that we've not yet begun to see the bottom of this pit.

These are serious and complex times. In the news, we generally see a bunch of older, white guys running around making it worse. This view is not entirely without merit. By and large, a bunch of stupid and selfish decisions are being made by white, male policymakers who for a myriad of reasons are taking us down this road. But I don't think they're doing it because they're white. Nor because they're male. Women policymakers are doing it too. So are nonwhite policymakers. The reasons, in fact, are much more involved than race and gender.

Which is why in my admittedly policy-oriented view, I find myself exceptionally irritated at the ever-bubbling discussion around gender in politics.

This is not to question the concept that having more women making policy, as a general rule, is a good thing. On the contrary there are many exceptional women who have done and continue to do great work in this arena. But these intelligent and accomplished people are good at their work because of what they've experienced and achieved as individuals. Gender is not, in my experience, a top tier factor in the calculus of what makes them superior candidates and policymakers.

The main argument I've heard in the call for "more women" in office has to do with idea that women bring different life experience to the table. There's no doubt that having a baby and motherhood are a uniquely feminine experience. But does this mean that only women take these experiences seriously to the point of creating and implementing policy that enhances them? Or that women are more effective at it than men?

I don't think so. In fact, one of the best policymakers on issues traditionally considered to be championed by women is Senator Jeff Merkley. For example, Merkley took the lead on laws giving working mothers unpaid time and clean space to express breast milk while on the job. This kind of legislation isn't high profile and it doesn't get Senator Merkley a big slot on the nightly news. He does it because it's needed and it's the right thing to do. There have been women in the US Senate since 1922. Yet it took a man to get this key provision for women into law.

And then there's Emerge Oregon, the organization working to inject more women into the political and policy bloodstream. Emerge is championed by both men and women from around the state. A perusal of that list shows some of the smartest and most articulate progressives in Oregon--and the list is full of men. In fact, I know several men on that list who have been directly responsible for helping women get into office. If that issue matters to you, I suggest you research the men on this list and support them in their endeavors. They rock.

Another point I've heard is that "all other things being equal, progressives should support women over men" as candidates. That's a nice saying, but as far I've seen--things are rarely, if ever, equal. Candidates have different levels and types of experience. There's an inherent "not equal" in that equation. We should decide which policy and leadership characteristics matter to us in our candidates and support accordingly. Most all of the women candidates I've been watching of late: Eileen Brady, Suzanne Bonamici, Mary Nolan, Amanda Fritz, Shemia Fagan and Dr. Sharon Meieran are all wonderful, brilliant women who deserve to be considered on their merits. It would be insulting to them and to their work to put the fact that they're women above virtually everything else in their vast portfolios.

It seems to me if what puts you over the top in that decision is whether or not the person has a penis or a vagina, you're doing it wrong.

For me, one of the most telling pieces of evidence that we're moving forward in normalizing women in politics is when Mary Nolan announced that she is challenging Amanda Fritz for Portland City Council. Two strong, smart, progressive women get to run against one another and based on their INDIVIDUAL experience and policy stances, Portland gets to decide who is the best for the job. There's such an epic amount of awesomeness in this--because it's NOT about their gender.

I could go on, but here's the point: good policy and politics comes from the INDIVIDUALS. It's not about their plumbing. Highlighting gender as a reason to seriously consider a candidate, especially to the point of weighing it over their experience as a leader or policymaker is, in my view, completely counterproductive. Women in high profile political roles should be normalized and this can't and won't be accomplished if we emphasize gender in this way.

We've got some big stuff to tackle in our state and around the nation. Let's elect these folks based on the content of their leadership, policy and ideas portfolios, not their plumbing.

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    Excellent post. I've always been confused how 'elect this one, she doesn't have a penis' is a valid political point. It it were two individuals, about equal in experience and stance, then sure. But one has only to look at the current Republican presidential candidates to see that inexperience and bad policy (and just plain crazy) is not a male-only condition.

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    I agree, Carla. Policy and experience matter more than plumbing.

    One challenge is that traditional views of what policies matter and what experiences matter have historically tended to bias toward the male experience and toward male priorities.

    For example, in presidential candidates, we have historically rewarded military and foreign policy experience and depth over health care policy experience and depth.

    In local politics, we've tended to think of the City Council as a place for "hard" issues (roads, police, etc.) best taken up by men, and the County Commission as a place for "soft" issues (health care, social services, etc.) best taken up by women. Even the descriptions as "hard" and "soft" have an implicit bias, never mind the absurdity of gender stereotyping inherent in it all.

    Fortunately, that's changed a lot in recent years. As we think about this stuff and apply it to specific contests, however, that's something to keep an eye on. Are we each individually, and collectively, assigning the proper emphasis to different kinds of experiences and policy priorities? Are we evaluating candidates on the true richness and robustness of their entire lives, or are we trying to slot them into predetermined gender roles?

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      I think the question is cause-effect, Kristin. Are the nations listed in the research this way BECAUSE there are more women in office? Or because the individuals in office, men & women alike, treat these issues as a priority? I've certainly not seen issues around women's reproductive health, for example, championed more effectively by women than men, especially of late.

      It can't just be about "getting women elected". It has to be about the policies. Were I to be in a position to run for office (I'm not...let's make that clear), I would be insulted by the idea of gathering support chiefly because I'm female.

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      For example, out of the top six nations that Save the Children has ranked as the best for maternal and child health, (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Germany and Austria), each one outperforms the United States with the number of women in government. The more women leaders, it seems, the healthier we (as women) are, and the healthier our children are.

      Kristin, I think you're either looking at correlation without causation - or you may be looking at causation that is reverse of your logic.

      The country in the world with the highest number of women in their parliament? Rwanda. In fact, Rwanda is the only country in the world with a majority of women in their parliament. (Source: UN Statistics Division report, 2010.) (Sweden is #2, followed by South Africa and Cuba. Then, yes, Iceland, Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Belgium... And then, Mozambique, Angola, Costa Rica, and Argentina.)

      I suspect that either there's no correlation - and it's a coincidence that the European countries with strong social-welfare programs happen to have lots of women in government. Or, the causation runs in reverse -- that countries that created strong social-welfare programs tend to have a stronger commitment to creating equal opportunity which leads to women in positions of power and responsibility.

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        The South African situation is what it is because they have an almost pure proportional representation / party list electoral system. Although MPs nominally represent districts, the MP "representing" a district is selected as the next one down the party list, with the top of the list getting the safest seats in terms of size of majority or plurality. So the high % of women MPs reflects primarily the policy of the ANC as a party in choice of candidates. The actual individuals have almost no freedom as to focus on "women's issues" or not, because this kind of list system makes for extreme "party discipline."

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        Here, here, Kari!

        I've made the point in several forums at different times and different places that on issue, most people (male and female) agree. Pretty much everyone thinks everyone should get the same pay if they do the job. Everyone thinks that everyone should get the same opportunities. But by using non-inclusionary language (They are women's issues, therefore, not only are they not men's issues, but they likely actively oppose them!) we are shutting out a huge majority of people who would ordinarily support them. This is why people vote conservative on social issues. Not because they think 'wimmins and darkies don't deserve it!' but because they themselves have been excluded by a group that is actively seeking to promote themselves over everyone else.

        Show them how they too can benefit, and watch them throng to our door.

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          Are you saying that men and white people perceive themselves as being excluded, or that when women and people of color stand up for themselves, they actually are "seeking to promote themselves over everyone else"? Women and people of color have real distinct interests, many of them created by history and culture. Why is it any less legitimate for them to articulate and work for those interests than for men or white people? In actual voting and policy preferences both women and people of color tend to support approaches oriented to mutual solidarity and the common good in somewhat higher proportion than men and white people, i.e. NOT promote themselves over everyone else.

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            Yes, that is what I am saying. There is a large group of marginally-connected voters, that when they see 'minority issues' do not think of what it could do for them, but instead think of dark-skinned people shouting in the streets. There are a large group of people that when they hear 'womans issues' think 'that's not me'.

            More, a choice inevitably creates dynamic tension. By saying 'woman's issues' you are implying not only 'not-men's issues' but 'anti-men's issues'. Of course this is nonsense, you and I know that. But that is what it sounds like. When we say 'fund women's health' and everyone knows there is only so much money going around, the question is where is this money coming from. And because of the tension, the answer is automatically 'men's health'.

            I don't have any hard facts, but I'm willing to bet that this is the reason why men generally vote Republican. I'm sure there are some genuine bigots and racists out there, but they are far from the majority. And Dems could do some major poaching by staying the same on the issues, but changing the language a bit. Pointing out that empowering women does not mean dis-empowering men. Show that minorities getting their rights protected also protects the rights of whites.

            And, this is the hard one, stop blaming Rich White Males. While it is true that they do make up the supermajority of office holders and millionaires, they also make up the majority of the poor. When you blame RWM's, to a coal miner in West Virginia who is barely making the bills, it sounds like you are blaming him for having slaves and abusing minorities. Any wonder why country music (Rah! Rah! America is the best! Americans are the best!) is so big along a certain racial/cultural line?

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        Kari, I think I see where this is coming from, but it's not that simple. Women do have specific and distinct interests, relating to facts like they live longer as well as to the nexus of things relating to division of labor around child-rearing and paid employment, violence against women and persisting though declining inequities in health care. Men if we're smart recognize that we're better off if women are better off, but the culture has a lot of misogyny (wait 'til your kid gets to middle school to get a picture of how it gets reproduced).

        Men can make these their issues too -- and after all it took a majority of men to vote for the woman suffrage initiative in Oregon 100 years ago. But it's silly to think that people with a direct stake in issues don't treat them differently, or to ignore the obvious fact that a lot more male politicians start paying attention to such issues when women are running and voting on them consciously and promoting the information to educate us men and raise our consciousness about the issues.

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      Nothing would make me happier than to see everyone for elected office do this.

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        Yes, well, see...if we want it done right now, as it stands, it is the women who are sponsoring the majority of this kind of legislation. One day...

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    Kari - I agree it makes the discussion very narrow and relevant to only a portion of the society but I have never heard another term that adequately identifies the issue so directly. When I use the term I mean issues relating to paid family leave, violence against women, affordable child care, that motherhood is a leading indicator of poverty, that women still only make a portion of their male counterparts at work, and so much more. What else do we call it that isn’t so vague that the listener will have a clue what we really mean?

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      ...how about human issues? Paid family leave? Most of Europe gives paternity leave. Violence? 2/3rds of all violent crime, every mugging, rape, assault and murder, happens to men. Affordable child care? Fathers have to pay too. Motherhood is a indicator of poverty? No. PARENTHOOD is a major drain on financial resources. With our legal system, men nearly automatically lose custody, thus unbalancing the proportions. Women do not necessarily earn less for the same jobs as men. However, the statics show there are a lot more male multi-millionares. The cultural reasons are too many for just here.

      So, let's phrase it as a 'human' issue. An 'American' issue. An 'Everyone' issue. You would be surprised at the people who would stand at your side to have the childcare system (or lack thereof) ironed out. Or to have a chance to take a few months off to watch their children grow. Or even to have a fair chance in legal hearings to get custody.

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        Jason, you are identifying issues that are not "human issues" but men's issues in a social way that compare to prostate cancer biologically. Some of those do need more recognition and it actually is because feminism leads us to pay more attention to gender equity that they become visible. You are just wrong on pay.

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          No, I am arguing that the PHRASING of the language is at issue. I am arguing to adopt language that implies non-exclusionary terms. Where feminism is a branch of humanism that focuses on female power relations, I am arguing for rephrasing things for a more humanist approach, one that includes white males as well as black males and native peoples and females of all colors.

          This is an important difference to make, as lower-income white males make up the majority of the Republican base. I have a hunch that they are there, despite obviously being against their interests, not because they are inherently anti-woman or anti-minority, but because they do feel excluded and even blamed.

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    well-written, Carla. thanks.

    re: CD 1. i'm glad i don't have to make that choice. both Avakian & Bonamici have strengths that would make them excellent in Congress, but they are different strengths. as far as i can tell at this point, it is an "all things equal" kind of thing. i find no policy/experience basis for choosing.

    in which case i turn to my own values, and that would say that we need more women in Congress. it might even make me choose her (had i a vote) if i felt Brad was a bit stronger. the big picture matters, and i think you undervalue the symbolic aspect of politics. sometimes you make a choice to promote a Cause, the cavaet being that that choice does not cause other harms. it's rarely an easy choice, but sometimes it is more than deciding between two people-as-people.

    sometimes you do have to pick the person who Represents the Cause.

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      I think if we're voting to support "the Cause", we're undermining ourselves. We vote for the people who will do the best job on policy. Otherwise we have relegated ourselves to a representative body of one-trick ponies.

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      What a recipe for mediocrity.

      The TPer's picked people who represented their cause and those respresentatives are willing to drive our country into a ditch to satisfy "Their Cause."

      Let us not make their mistakes. Let us pick the best person for the job.

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        My idea about the best person for the job includes what issues they see as important. It's not the only thing, but it's a part of both good policy and good governance.

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      If these folks: women, younger people, nonwhite and non-wealthy people vote and participate in electoral politics, then it is in fact their system. They absolutely helped to choose it.

      Frankly, if the problem is older white men setting up and ruling the system, you'd be better off getting more people sympathetic to these issues by getting them in charge of media and corporate interests. That seems to be where we're heading anyway.

      The end game shouldn't be to get more women or people of color or non-wealthy people into office. The end game should be to get excellent public policies.

      I think this is why I'm less a "party" person now more than ever. It seems to me that we've lost sight of why we put people in office in the first place, at least in large part. I'm not saying that optics should be disregarded, but to shove them up to the top is irresponsible, at best.

      It's a nice idea, as a stand alone principle, to have our elected officials be a "cross-section of America". But there's a lot more to being in office than just being part of the cross-section.

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        I'm not suggesting their should be a quota system or representative system, I'm just saying that if you flipped the numbers, you'd end up with a very different culture.

        I also think the problem is a little more nuanced than getting people sympathetic to different politicians. There's more than a dumb-luck chance that the people who control the wealth and institutions in a country would end up representing it in Congress. There are a lot of institutional advantages that allow well-connected, Harvard-educated men with media influence to get elected. I'm not trying to offer a prescriptive solution, just to point out that the women in Congress aren't necessarily like the women outside Congress.

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          Michelle Bachmann is surely no Ivy League establishment type.

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            David and John, you miss my point. I'm not arguing that everyone who's in Congress is an old, wealthy, Harvard-educated white male. (Obviously.) The point is that the rules are set to those norm. Do you dispute this?

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              Are you saying that the rules would be set to different norms if women were in charge instead? I see no evidence of this.

              Women appear to me to be as corruptible as men--it just usually takes different means to get there.

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                It's an almost impossible thought experiment to attempt. The film, "White Man's Burden", tried it - but ended up being somewhat tortured in its logic.

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                Anybody who thinks women are better and purer than most men has not worked for a petty, vindictive female supervisor. Doesn't need to be someone wanting to curry favor for a male superior, either.

                And anyone watching Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Beverly LaHaye or Phyllis Schafly in action should know better, anyway.

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              I'm not missing the point; the point you state here is different than that in your previous posts.

              Yes, I would dispute the rules are set to an old, white, male, Harvard educated system. The system skews to Harvard (and the like) because Harvard is a selecting filter for high-potential people early in life and high-potential people are more likely to enter politics.

              Anybody with the capability and desire can spend the time developing the relationships required to make an entry into political office and then work their way up. As far as Harvard is concerned, I don't see a problem with that especially since its student body is more diverse than homogeneous and women outnumber men - indicating the future leadership of our country is more diverse.

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              And that one strategy for women and people of color to get into the structures is to support the dominant interests and ethical orientations. This is where Carla's point gets most traction I think. But the answer isn't to pretend that women don't have distinctive interests as well as common interests that we all all have, that should go into our evaluation of what makes for good policy.

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          What "different culture" would you end up with? That seems pretty oblique to me. I'm not trying to be flip here, I'm trying to make sense of why it matters more to get someone who matches up with a certain gender than someone who is better on policy, leadership and experience.

          Cuz this is essentially what you are saying, as far as I can tell.

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            I'm going to reply to you and David here because I hate the tiny space my reply has to fit in above.

            I think the US Congress has a very particular culture based on the homogeneity of the large majority of men (82%) who are white (77%), educated in elite colleges (percent unknown) and who rich (nearly 100%). Would a group who looked very different be interested in the same issues, the same policy framework, and hold the same priority as this group? That's why I suggest the thought experiment that the group were exactly flipped.

            My point is that, while you must judge every candidate individually, it doesn't mean that the institution of the Congress doesn't reflect an extremely masculine set of values and priorities. Nor does having a minority of women in the Congress change that.

            Again, I'm not arguing that anything should be done about--except noticing it.

            (And David, I was using "Harvard" as shorthand. Even Michele Bachmann got a law degree from the College of William and Mary. Hardly a bootstraps tale of scaping the shekels together to go to PSU.)

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              Good lord. That's barely English. The ravages of the OBF weekend on my brain.

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              Michelle got a tax specialty from W&M. Her law degree was from Oral Roberts.

              See Wikipedia; "In 1986 she received a J.D. degree from Oral Roberts University. She was a member of the final graduating class of the law school at ORU, and was part of a group of faculty, staff, and students who moved the ORU law school library to what is now Regent University.[12] In 1988, Bachmann received an LL.M. degree in tax law from the William & Mary School of Law.[13][14]

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            Carla, it's like weather vs. climate. You're right in any given individual race. But the sum total of the individual races produces a population that has social relations and social psychology shaped by experiences and culture. One reason to keep "women's issues" clearly visible and use them as an important not the only but an important criterion of evaluating candidates of both sexes is that the tendencies Kristin has pointed out -- not uniformities but tendencies -- means over time that more of the candidates who look "good" on policy, leadership and experience will be women, because the group of smart politicians who are paying attention to those issues and have good ideas about them and how they relate to other things will tend -- to have more women in it than the universe of all politicians.

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              I think you could say that any subgroup has "social relations and social psychology shaped by experiences and culture.." That doesn't make them better legislators or better on policy. At best, it means they might come to the table with an original point of view. But based on the research posted here by both Krisin and Val, this doesn't necessarily demonstrate actual policy change.

              This is the nut of the issue for me. I'm interested in the extreme in policy ideas/changes that move us in a progressive direction, including those that are traditionally considered important to women. As I noted earlier, we've had women in the US Senate since 1922. But it took a man, Senator Jeff Merkley, to get substantive policy passed for women to have unpaid time and a clean place to express breast milk at work. And on the other shoe, we've got plenty of women, both at the state and federal level, participating in the restriction of women's reproductive healthcare access.

              I'm anxious to see the work of women in politics and policy normalized. I strongly believe that the emphasis of gender--whether its used as a "tie-breaker" or an excuse, is condescending to women. It also emphasizes something other than our skills & abilities.

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        "But there's a lot more to being in office than just being part of the cross-section."

        True. But don't you think the Constitution may have been written a little differently if African-Americans and women had been included in the Constitutional Convention?

        I agree that competence and a person's positions should be at the forefront when we are making voting decisions. But I think diversity issues have a place as well.

        Kristin has cited relevant studies showing that having more women in office makes a difference precisely because they tend to place a higher priority on so-called women's issues.

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          Would it? With the possible exception of the 3/5ths compromise, how would the Constitution have been substantively different? I'm not convinced.

          Kristin indeed cited some studies..but I'm not seeing that those studies demonstrate a cause-effect. In fact, it could be the opposite. Because those nations have a system that has supported women and brought them along to be better on policy, more women are in a position to serve.

          Policies that honor and embrace diversity are what matter. Let's work for and elect those candidates that will do that.

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            There was one study in other nations...the rest were here. The book that I cited was in the 103rd and 104th Congress, the other (the CAWP one) was of state legislatures in all 50 states.

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            A Constitutional Convention that included women and African Americans might have ensured that women had the right to vote and that slavery was not permitted. At the very least, those would have been debated.

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              It's most likely that voting would have been extended to non-property holders as well, considering that only white men, because of this law, were allowed to vote. And yes, the right to vote extended to people of color and women, based upon voting trends, would have significantly changed who was in the room. And that would have been dramatic.

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                But changing "who was in the room" would have substantively changed the Constitution...how? This is what I'm really driving at (apologies if this seems like I'm being pushy..but this point is the whole enchilada for me)--if women had owned property at the time & had voting rights, I'm not seeing how their presence would have changed the meat of the Constitution or the process in any substantive way.

                The case is being made here, it seems to me, that we should ratchet gender at the top of consideration of candidates because it will substantively change process and policy. I'm sincerely not seeing this to be the case, so I would appreciate an explanation.

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                  i>The case is being made here, it seems to me, that we should ratchet gender at the top of consideration of candidates because it will substantively change process and policy.

                  Who, exactly, is making that case? I don't see anyone here making that case. I do see people making the case that diversity is one factor to be taken into consideration.

                  Yes, there are good men who make things better by being in office and bad women who make things worse by being in office. I don't see anyone here arguing that point.

                  That's a different issue, though, than saying that having a greater representation of women (and other groups as well) makes for a better legislative body.

                  Kristin has actually cited studies that show that women tend to push different issues than men. And that's a good thing, and that's why it's important to have women represented in legislative bodies. That doesn't mean that in a particular race the best course of action is to support a woman against a man.

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                    The only studies I could locate from the Center for American Women in Politics on this topic are at least 20 years old. They state that, as a matter of demographics, Democratic women officeholders are more liberal and GOP women officeholders are more moderate.

                    I can only speak anecdotaly, not being a researcher, but it sure seems to me that this is no longer the case, especially for the GOP. The women in the GOP (with a few exceptions for mostly longstanding office holders) are as far afield when it comes to fringe rightwing policies as their male counterparts.

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                      Their website has more recent studies. The one that I cited was not focusing on differences between women by party, but between women and men. There are other studies as well. The Swers book I cited was written in 2002. There's a book written in 1998 (When Women Lead) that analyzes the differences in leadership between men and women is legislatures.

                      Karen Tamurius's “Sex, Gender, and Leadership in the Representation of Women.” Gender Power, Leadership, and Governance" showed that while men and women tend to vote similarly on women's issues, there was a distinct difference in who took the lead on women's issues. In the 1995 study, she showed that 92% of women drafted pro-woman legislation, while only 8% of men did so.

                      And then, there are the NARAL and Planned Parenthood voting guides, which show, up until just this year, the differences between what women and men take leadership on...

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                  I don't see that at all. Rather it seems that you are arguing that gender should not be a consideration at all -- but Kristin is showing that in fact there is a statistical correlation between gender and some policy priorities. So that becomes a piece of an evaluation process. You're caricaturing the argument, n.b. Kristin pointed out she supported Obama over Clinton, which exemplifies not doing what you wrongly say "the case is being made for."

                  Since politics goes in cycles, there isn't going to be "clean" causation. Obviously in a historically male dominated system it's going to take some men acting equitably for women to be able to advance. That might be supporting suffrage, that might be mentoring, it might be just playing fair. But in the social dynamics of a legislature, if you get a nucleus of women who have certain policy priorities and skillful legislation, those priorities can attract support not just because they are good policy -- though that might be enough for a Jeff Merkley -- but because those female legislators' support for other things is valuable and may garner ability to push their priorities through partly with horse-trading. Obviously for those priorities it would be better to have a man who supported them than a woman who didn't.

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              Slavery was debated--which was part of how we arrived at the 3/5 Compromise. And yeah, we'd have had the vote for women..but if women were a part of the Constitutional Convention, chances are that would have already gone there.

              But the real substance of the Constitution--the set up of our government, the powers of the branches, etc...the substantive pieces that the vast bulk of the document addresses, how would it have been substantively different had women participated in the Convention? I'm not seeing it.

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                Carla, you're getting into a level of counterfactual that's a bit like "What if Napoleon had B-52s at the Battle of Waterloo?" You're (apparently) holding all other social relationships unchanged and saying in effect would it have been different if we put in the wives of half the men in their place? Maybe not. But that's actually quite different from Jeff's thought experiment.

                Eighteenth century women couldn't own property in their own right, except as widows. That fact influenced who could get to be in the Convention just as did the enslavement of most black persons and the lack of substantial property of most free blacks. The constriction of property rights was intimately connected to the elevation of property rights over individual rights to freedom of person, and over much else.

                To imagine an 18th century society sufficiently egalitarian about women in politics to have sent a significant number of women to the Constitutional Convention suggests a high probability of greater egalitarianism in other social relations and probably less emphasis on rights of property. Likewise the fact that the actual movement of women into public life (women speaking in public was considered shocking, remember) was closely tied to the anti-slavery and abolition movements, cf. who was at Seneca Falls, suggests that the dynamics around slavery might have been quite different. Another imponderable about that is whether having women in public life in the southern states would have changed their approaches to slavery (there were significant gradual abolition movements in the late 18th c. in the upper South).

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                  I completely agree. I don't think women and people of color are not capable of corruption, but the history of their involvement in the public realm has, with few exceptions (maybe Prohibition being one), led to a greater expansion of freedoms in the United States. Considering this, it's almost heartbreaking to consider is how much strife, injustice and pain would have been avoided had that involvement been welcome at the very beginning of this country, rather than what happeened -- the creation of social constructs that did little more than inhibit and restrict people.

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                  It seems like you're already covering ground that I ceded--the 3/5ths Compromise. But you're not addressing the main point: the real substance of the Constitution (branches of government, Bill of Rights, powers, etc).

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      Let me play devil's advocate here for a minute:

      Let's say that we are negotiating a big trade deal with another country. Let's further say that this trade deal is so big, it alone could support the economy, or not getting it could send us into a major depression. Millions of your people's welfare depends on the outcome of the deal.

      Now, let's say that you have two candidates to be chief negotiator. The first is someone who graduated top of their class at an elite, prestigious school, and has possibly even run a successful business or two.

      The other went to a state school, and graduated middle of his class. They never owned a business.

      Both have about the same age and experience in public office.

      Which would you rather run those negotiations?

      Yes, I realize that this is as silly a thought experiment as yours. And yes, I do think that minorities (especially in areas with high populations of those minorities) and women should be encouraged to run, as they bring a plethora of experience outside of the norm.

      I don't care about their race, gender or age. But when it comes to matters of national security, foreign trade, and federal programs, I want our best educated, brightest and best to be the ones out there doing it.

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      I am, for one, supporting Brad Avakian for Congress and Eileen Brady for Mayor.

      In neither case was my choice related to anatomy. I think they are each the candidate mostly likely to produce the best outcomes for the issues and values I care about.

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        Right with you. THough I am still willing to give Hales a look if he brings something bigger to the table or Brady falters badly. Likewise, while I can no longer vote in the fist CD, I have been supporting Avakian because he stepped up when it mattered and is immanently qualified. If Bonamici were to get the nomination, she would without question get my full support, as there is no downside to either Avakian or Bonamici representing the Oregon first in Congress.

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      You are not alone, Greenleaf!

      Especially in county or city seats, where the information and examination isn't as... intense... as the national or even state stuff, I find myself picking out a few choices and then 'going for minority' if I don't see a major policy difference.

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      I'm not saying gender bias isn't real. Of course it is. I'm saying that emphasizing the "need" to elect more women--and pushing it to the top of the priority list feeds into that bias.

      Case in point: the Nolan-Fritz race. I heard and read numerous complaints about Nolan running against Fritz--simply because of their gender. The nut of the gripe was that two women shouldn't run against one another because there aren't enough women on PDX City Council and its destructive for women to run in this scenario?


      It should be normal for women to run against women. Or for women to run against men--or men against women. And when we focus on gender, we take focus of things that REALLY MATTER in policy making, like experience and leadership and ideas. Not that we can't walk and chew gum at the same time...but often, we don't.

      As far as Avakian goes, he doesn't need me to talk up how fantastic he is. I love the guy. And I love Bonamici too (both have been my State Rep and State Senator--so I know them well). I think it's insulting to Suzanne to fold her gender into this equation. Like Avakian, she has policy positions and experience that deserve to be considered well above her plumbing.

      Certainly if I were in her position, I believe I would be insulted by it. I consider myself a reasonably smart and accomplished person. If your deciding factor for putting me in office is my gender instead of my policy position on something, then you've just fed into the bias, in my view.

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      There may be a general bias against women as you say, but in Democratic primaries in Portland there is a bias toward women by a few percent. Keep in mind that there are even more women voting in Democratic primaries than men by an even greater percentage.

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    Highlighting gender as a reason to seriously consider a candidate, especially to the point of weighing it over their experience as a leader or policymaker is, in my view, completely counterproductive.

    But is are progressives actually doing that?

    There's a difference between taking it into account as one factor, and "weighing it over their experience as a leader or policymaker".

    I haven't seen any great movements of "draft a woman, any woman" among progressives.

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      Yeah, I think they are. Please note my point above to Steve Packer on the Nolan-Fritz race.

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        Carla, I am trying to think of where this argument might produce a real difference between us in voting. The best thing I can come up with is let's imagine a man who is skilled and experienced but who is well known for not caring much about gender equity issues -- not actively bad, just doesn't care about them, vs. a sharp, high energy, high potential woman with good policy views and a gender equity priority among others, but much less experience. I would lean to choosing the potential and the issues over the experience.

        How do you weigh experience vs. policy orientations and priorities?

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          Chris asks:

          "How do you weigh experience vs policy orientation & priorities"?

          In this order:

          1. I look at their legislative/executive/business record: what have they actually accomplished?

          2. Were they able to get a lot of other people to follow their lead?

          3. What have they done outside of their work (leg, exec, biz) life that substantively demonstrates their priorities?

          4. What do they say matters to them?

          A high energy woman who says she is the things that matter to me-loses my vote to a man who has demonstrated he can and will do it. Every single time.

          And vice versa.

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            You haven't addressed the content piece of my example -- the stipulation that the "experienced" man doesn't care about gender equity issues. To me that represents a failure of judgment that matters. Also you are polarizing the case to "only says" vs. "clearly demonstrated." In my experience as a voter the information available to me usually is incomplete, it's rarely a question of "no experience" vs. "completely able and experienced." Other things are never exactly equal, as you say, but often they are roughly equal with trade-offs in strengths and weaknesses, and a high degree of unknowns.

            To me "able to get things done" is tied to "what wants to get done." I might vote for someone with less experience -- not none, but less -- who has shown an ability to get things done, and who has shown and says they want to get things done that I want to see happen, over someone with more experience and maybe even better in some general sense at "getting things done" who either wants to do things I don't like (easy) or who has some overlap but different priorities (case by case).

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      Well, read the comment section to the BO post about Rep. Nolan's HD 36 open seat.

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    I don't think--or I hope--there are many progressives who simply vote on a gender/race basis solely (ie: she's a women, she has my vote).

    An old, white male can defend minority and women's rights politically just as well as a candidate more representative of minorities. A candidate who is a minority can prevent progress easily too..so strictly politically, gender i don't believe should be taken into account as much as say policy or character.

    However, race and gender DO influence my support (albeit mildly), particularly because as a young person, being able to look at our leaders, and say "that could be me" is an empowering notion. For a young minority girl, a room full of Bernie Sanders-esque looking people will likely do little to inspire her politically. But seeing say, a Sheila Jackson Lee will perhaps empower her. Gender is not a huge factor for me politically, but it can tear down barriers between under-represented minorities and DC, creating a more democratic process.

    • (Show?)

      Bernie Sanders may not be the best example of the type of leader who can't inspire minority young people:

      (from Wikipedia:) Sanders, the son of Jewish Polish immigrants to the United States, was born in Brooklyn. He graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn and later attended the University of Chicago, graduating with a B.A. in political science in 1964.[4] After graduating from college, Sanders spent time on an Israeli kibbutz, an experience which shaped his political views.[5] In 1964, Sanders moved to Vermont, where he worked as a carpenter, filmmaker, writer and researcher, among other jobs.[4]

    • (Show?)

      I can only read the first page of the study, unfortunately. Not being a subscriber to the Journal....

      but..it says that the ability of women to make change at the legislative level is directly tied to the support of their colleagues. So now we're back to the chicken-egg thing: is the cause-effect really because there are more women...or that the atmosphere prior to having more women is set up to push those better policy ideas?

      If I were a man, I believe I would absolutely be insulted (and pissed) if someone told me they voted for me because it's a "man's job". That's unadulterated BS and I'm willing to bet that you were insulted and pissed when that happened to you at the doorstep. In my view, when we go screaming 180 degrees in the opposite direction, folding gender bias toward women, we're doing ourselves a disservice as well.

      I'd vote for you Val because you're smart and good at (and on) policy. And because you don't take sh** from anyone--you call it like you see it. Those qualities are what make you an outstanding legislator, in my view.

      I agree that we have exceptional people running for the 1st CD. I hope that people look at their policy expertise and leadership skills--and leave gender aside.

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        If I were a man, I believe I would absolutely be insulted (and pissed) if someone told me they voted for me because it's a "man's job".

        Apples and oranges. We haven't had a situation where the vast majority of legislative seats are held by women. Had that been the case then yes, it would be appropriate to increase the diversity of representation.

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          I still see you arguing for diversity..simply for the sake of diversity. Not for the sake of better policy. That's not good enough for me.

          I want better policy across the board. This is what matters to me. We do this by electing the best individuals for the job: women or men.

          I can't see the "apples & oranges" in this scenario. And it still seems to me that creating it feeds the gender bias rather than normalizing it.

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            The apples and oranges is that it's still the case that there are far more men in elective offices than women.

            I also want better policy across the board, and nobody here is arguing that we are better off electing bad women than good men.

            However, if there are two great candidates, are two good candidates, I will take diversity into account in my voting decision.

            Will I necessarily vote for a woman or a gay or African American candidate? No. Do I think that we're better off if those groups are represented in legislative bodies? Absolutely.

            This is an extreme example, I realize, but look at the Roman Catholic Church, which has no women among the decision makers. Do you think they would have so easily moved pedophile priests around if women, and especially mothers, had been among the decision makers?

            Or, another example, police departments used to be nearly all male, and in many cities, nearly 100% white. Do you think that it's a good thing that there is more diversity?

            • (Show?)

              It seems like you're defaulting to the "all things being equal" argument, which I addressed in my original post. "All things" are rarely, if ever equal.

              This is why people should be seen as individuals, not as genders, IMO.

              • (Show?)

                I think seeing a person's sex is part of seeing them as an individual.

                All things may not ever be equal, but they can certainly be equivalent.

                Are you telling me you've never looked at a race in an election and said to yourself "I've looked over these two candidates, and I really can't choose between them. Candidate A has a, b, and c that I like, but x and y that I don't like. Candidate B has d, e, and f that I like, but w and z that I don't like."

                It feels to me like it boils down to a straw man (or woman) argument. I haven't seen anyone here say that a person's sex should be the overriding consideration, but in a close call, it's a factor they'll take into account. Is that really a bad thing?

              • (Show?)

                Part of this isn't just being "in the room", it's about the relationships among legislators.

                Yes, women can testify about issues they care about at open meetings. But if they aren't represented in the legislative bodies, they can't participate in caucus meetings to decide priorities, they can't share their personal experiences with their colleagues.

                That's not meant as a slight in any way towards the men who care about these issues, it's just acknowledging that their life experience hasn't, and won't, include some things that only women can experience.

                Not a single one of the men who have served in Congress has ever gotten pregnant, has ever had a difficult pregnancy, has ever gotten pregnant at 16, has ever had an abortion.

                When decisions are being made about priorities, I think it makes a difference if some of the people in the room have had these experiences and can talk about them first hand.

                Would you be comfortable with a 100% white male legislature and Congress?

      • (Show?)

        No, you're not really back to the chicken & egg thing. You're saying, I think, that there's a connection between changing "the atmosphere" for more woman-supporting legislation and changing the atmosphere for more women getting elected. Both depend on paying attention to sex/gender inequity -- and the differences in outcomes suggests suggests that having a nucleus of legislators who make gender equity a priority matters, and that a higher proportion of women makes it easier to get that nucleus.

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      Well, there are at least two races in Oregon in 2012 that feature two leading candidates that are one male and one female.

      In addition to Avakian/Bonamici, there's also Charlie Hales and Eileen Brady for Mayor of Portland.

      I'm pretty sure that Carla wanted to have a broader discussion, rather than getting bogged down in the particulars of a single race.

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      • (Show?)

        That's pretty damn condescending toward Suzanne. Are you really saying she's not up to this job based on her merits alone?

        She's been my State Rep and State Senator for a number of years. I have no doubt that she can make a case for herself for the job without her gender being an issue.

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          It's not a comment about Senator Bonamici. It's a comment speculating about your motives and what situation may have given rise to this piece. In what current prominent race might there be a few progressives saying something that could be interpreted as what you're worried about?

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            As I've already stated, the reaction to Mary Nolan entering the race against Amanda Fritz has really bothered me.

            Also, I wasn't especially thrilled to see Emily's List jump into the PDX mayor's race, especially given that there were other very strong pro-choice candidates in the race.

            And honestly, those who see this post as something couched toward Avakian really ARE being condescending toward Suzanne. As I said, she's more than capable of making her case to represent me in Congress without having to rely on her gender. I'm rather stunned that other people seem to be leaning that she can't.

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              Carla, you're inventing stuff. Who said Senator Bonamici can't make her case apart from her gender? I have no idea about how she's running, if she is. How she makes her case is entirely separate from whether or not voters consider gender as a factor in determining their vote.

              The Fritz-Nolan race is a different kind of issue. I had a negative reaction to your earlier post on it, & have some concern therefore that you are misunderstanding or misrepresenting that reaction. I don't think there's anything wrong with Nolan running per se, or that Fritz should somehow be immune from challenge because she's a woman. I just don't think that it's a great thing to have two excellent women candidates (as you put it before, you were the one who brought gender into the picture) fighting one another, any more than it's a great thing if two excellent male candidates fight. It happens. I guess Amanda Fritz appears most vulnerable. Some of her vulnerability, having to do with not being as tied into the political money game in Portland as Dan Saltzman or Nick Fish or I suppose Steve Novick (whom I support), is a reason why I support her and will be sorry if that part of what she represents goes from the Council.

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    Sorry if I took it to CD1 so fast but I just have a strong opinion on the race and the role of gender in that race. I was already backing Avakian before Wu stepped down and I was very proud of Avakian when he stepped up and spoke out against Wu asking him to resign. It just seemed immediately that the conversation went to Bonamici after the announcement of Wu’s resignation and so many people assumed I would change support or offer support to both because I do support getting more women to run. I want women to run but be judged equally during the race.

    As Steve Packer does above, some people assume a latent gender bias when you support a man over a woman and that is simply NOT TRUE. I actually think actions speak louder than words, and I cannot get past Bonamici being quiet on Wu’s bad acts and the things he did to that young girl. How is that a latent gender bias? It isn’t.

  • (Show?)

    And then, there's this...

    "Between 1984 and 2004, women won their home districts an average of $49 million more per year than their male counterparts (a finding that held regardless of party, geography, committee position, tenure in office, or margin of victory). The spending jump was found within districts, too, when women moved into seats previously occupied by men, and the cash was for projects across the spectrum, not just "women's issues."


    • (Show?)

      Weird. This piece is practically an argument to NOT normalize having more women in office. It's essentially saying that the reason women in this study are more effective at policy is that it's harder for women to get in..so only the very best policy makers manage it, in general:

      "So are women just innately better politicians? Probably not. More likely, say Berry and Anzia, female politicians are better than men because, as in other fields, they simply have to be. More than 90 years after the first woman was elected to Congress, female politicians still hold less than a fifth of all national seats, and do only slightly better at the state level. In order to overcome lingering bias against women in leadership positions, those women must work that much harder to be seen as equals."

      So eliminating bias, according to this research, eliminates whatever barriers there are to less qualified candidates.....

  • (Show?)

    And, Susan Carroll from CAWP wrote a 2002 book summarizing a number of studies about elected women ... (The Impact of Women in Public Office)

    While differences were minimized when considering the type of governance structure, the book clearly cites a number of ways in which men and women still operate differently...

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      There are a lot of rich, well-heeled women who are setting abortion policies (I can't speak to the sexual assault policies--cuz honestly I haven't followed it closely enough) too.

      The point has already been made upthread about the number of women who are leading us down a very bad policy path.

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        I don't think anybody is saying that we elect women simply because they're women. Heck, I said I'd work against Blanche Lincoln, and she's theoretically a Dem.

        And if there are right wing women leading us down a bad path, it seems, at least in terms of women's issues, that it's progressive women who are providing the strongest leadership against them. With thanks, of course, to Merkley as well.

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          Well...then..aren't you saying that we should be putting policy & leadership issues well above gender...?

          Which is my original point...?

          (I'm confused...)

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            You appear to be saying we should never consider gender or pay attention to the idea that the people with most skin in the game may give it priority, and to be arguing against a straw man in many cases.

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    I read the Daily Beast article very differently -- the reality is that now, today, being a woman in power is different, specifically with regard to policy effects. Now, hopefully, this won't be the case in the future, because I don't believe that women are somehow essentially better, but I don't think it makes sense to say, today, that it doesn't make a difference when it comes to policy. The evidence simply shows that there is..

    If we are to normalize women in power, I think the best way is to ensure that the mantle of those issues that affect women in a disproportionate way is shared by men and women equally, and that we avidly support qualified women to ensure that they don't have to be superhuman to simply share in some of the power that men get far more easily.

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      I think if we had more women in office, we would see some changes in this.


      If we had more progressives in office, we'll see more changes in this.

      I don't believe that biology is destiny. I don't believe that biology trumps ideology.

      If we just had more Michele Bachmanns and Sarah Palins in Congress, things would go backward.

      If we had more Jeff Merkleys and Sherrod Browns in Congress, things would go forward.

      Ideology matters more than biology.

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        You can disagree, but I think you're wrong. Though, I suppose you could argue we haven't had a majority of progressives ever. Even moderate Republican women experience these things too, so while I'd love to have more progressives in office, if we had more women- geez, even if we had 25% of women in the congress or senate, that would be a start.

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        This is a straw man. No one on this thread has advocated voting for regressive women over progressive men.

        It's a little aside, but women are more likely to be progressives, partly because of the reason Sunny says. Abilities are about equally distributed between the sexes. If we back progressives over time we're going to back women disproportionately.

        I can tell you that I would be less likely to vote for a candidate who spouted the straw man arguments on this thread just as I would be less likely to vote for candidate who spouted spurious "I'm color blind" rhetoric, no matter how progressive they claimed to be.

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          I'd be much less likely to vote for someone who says, "all things being equal, vote for the woman".

          All things are rarely, if ever, equal. Vote for the individual who you know has the qualities and skills to do the best job.

          Only this way will we normalize women in politics.

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            If there are two candidates, vote for the best one.

            If you can't choose between the two, then giving a few points for being a woman/minority can't hurt.

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    Making your choices on who to vote for based on the color of their skin or what is between their legs is wrong. I don’t care if he is the first black president. You’re free to do it, but it is not something I will support, and I will continue to advocate against voting for those reasons. But even more reprehensible then voting for someone based on what they look like is any kind of favoritism of any group of individuals by sex or skin color in policy by government. No one should have a better chance of getting into a state funded school or have any other government decision made based on the color of their skin or their sex.

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      Once again, nobody is saying this, anymore then they are saying 'vote only for men' or 'whites only for the government!'

      However, gender and race do have their own perspectives, and currently we are very overrepresented in whites and men in every level of government.

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      I don't think anyone has suggested that there isn't a gender disparity. Of course there is. I'm saying that it seems to me that the goal is the normalization of women in politics and policy--and to insist that gender be a high consideration when choosing who to vote for only feeds that beast.

      Based on the first piece of data you posted upthread--the reason that women find themselves effective at policy is due to in great part to support of their colleagues. That leads me to believe that its as much about the system that supports these policymakers as their gender.

      We send people to represent us in the halls of various legislatures for reasons of policy. That's why you're there. I keep reading the research and data being posted here...and not seeing the direct causation between more women in office & better policy. There are too many other contributing factors.

      This is not, nor has it ever been, about being "content that the men in power will take care of them...". It's about electing people who have the skills and experience to do an excellent job--and then the guts and integrity to actually do it. I suspect that people didn't send you to Salem in large part because you're a women. They sent you there because they believe in your skills and abilities.

      The argument that we need more women for the sake of having more women is insulting. I want people in office, men or women, who fit the bill as I described in the previous paragraph. I don't care if that person looks like me. Frankly, I'd rather have people smarter and more capable than me in these jobs--because we need the smartest and most capable IN the jobs.

      In my view, it misses the mark entirely to get twisted up about gender when there's a much higher order of issues to be twisted about--specifically a laundry list of policy & leadership. That's where our emphasis ought to be--and we're taking our eye off the ball if it isn't.

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      And btw, I will take you up on the shadow thing. But not just for a day. Nobody can get a sense of anything in Salem in one day. Let's make it a week.

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    Can someone else take you up on that offer, Val? I would love to shadow you for the day!

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      I don't feel represented by a Congress that thinks slashing budgets and refusing to raise taxes no matter what is the best way to go about public policy. Or one that, with plenty of women helping it along, ends funding for Planned Parenthood and reproductive services. Or one that keeps us entrenched in two wars. Or one that doesn't put the best person (Elizabeth Warren) in charge of the new consumer protection bureau in the Executive Branch...or...or...or...

      I've had an unwanted pregnancy. I've been given less pay because I'm a woman. I've had to pump breast milk in a bathroom stall at work while sitting on the lid of a toilet because there was no other place. But that doesn't make me the better candidate in a race. At this stage, its highly unlikely that I'd be terribly effective at passing policies that would change that (I could be, someday). But there are plenty of other people--both men & women--who probably are. I'm looking for the person who's most effective at it--not their gender.

      A "wide range of experiences" can come from lots of places. I'm willing to bet that my growing up experience in Eastern Oregon was much different than someone who grew up in the Portland Metro area. Is this less valuable than gender? I'm a blonde haired, blue eyed female. I've seen brunette females treated as if they have more intelligence and common sense than myself in an employment situation simply because their hair isn't blonde. Those are "different experiences", too. I highly doubt there's going to be a push to elect blondes over brunettes--or vice versa.

      I'm not denying that there's a rich, white male corporate power structure in this country. I'm just not seeing how "we have to vote for women over men" gets us out of it. It seems to me that voting for the people devoted to undoing that power structure, men or women, should be the priority.

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    I can't seem to reply any more...huh...

    Carla, no, that's not my point. My point is that if you look at the leadership of progressive women, policy and gender are intertwined. It is not a policy or gender kind of decision. Gender experience feeds the policy decision and extent of leadership for the majority of progressive women in leadership. To deny that this is valuable is dangerous, as far as I'm concerned.

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    For me, Carla, that higher order includes women's issues, and most women in power put them at a higher priority than men, unfortunately.

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    I'm kind of surprised to see this question being asked in this way.

    Here are a couple reasons why I think that I agree the most with Kristin, Val, and Sunny.

    1) This infographic.

    There are currently 448 men in Congress and 91 women. Women make up (at least) 50% of our citizenship and governments should be representative of those governed. This disparity is unacceptable. I would hope that we, as liberals/progressives, would never accept a society that was half people of color, but where 83% of the elected representatives of those people were white. I would hope that no one would say that that make-up would be acceptable.

    2) No one here, that I saw, mentioned the structural problems that exist that have made it difficult for women (as a group, not necessarily individual women) from attaining power. Not office, but power. Women who work outside of homes and are partnered in heterosexual pairings are still expected to work a "second shift" and be responsible for the majority of housework/child rearing. (Some individuals do make strides against this, but this continues to be the case in general.) Men are expected by their employers to be able to spend 60 hours a week working and even progressive/feminist men and women have to struggle against falling into culturally familiar roles where women, even women with their own careers pick up a disproportionate percentage of the "slack." Women are considered to be useful in terms of helping their male partners in their careers by, often, essentially making home concerns not the man's concerns.

    3) Women still aren't seen as people by most of society, including many women. The amount of androcentrism in our culture is disturbing. Women have to play be far different rules just to be safe in our culture and are regularly subject to levels of harassment and scrutiny (Michelle Bachman's make-up and hair "scandal" recently.) that men will never be. There are lots of cultural disincentives for women to be involved in politics and there exists no "old girls club" to mentor young women coming up in to the world of politics.

    4) There ought to be an "Old Girls Club." But before that can happen, there need to be generations, literally, of power to be passed down and mentors to look up to. We often forget that it hasn't been all that long since women achieved legal parity under that law. It takes a lot longer to create a power base, especially if women are taught that the way to get and keep power is to make and keep a network of men.

    I absolutely give preference to voting for women and people of color. Would I vote for a Sarah Palin or a Michelle Bachmann? Of course not. Would I support organizations like Emerge Oregon or New Leadership Oregon? Hell yes! If looking at campaigns to volunteer for/give money to, would I factor that into my decision? Definitely.

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      Also, while I like most of Oregon's delegation, it's a disgrace that 7 of 7 of our Federal delegation are men. Most of them are good men, as far as I'm aware, but they're all men. 100%. Not a single woman among them.

      Congress is bad, but if you add state governments into the mix, I bet you come up with an even lower percentage of of elected women holding office. Maybe women "do better" at the city and county level, I don't know what those stats are, but we are NOWHERE near parity.

      Until we've had parity for several generations, I think it's the wrong time to be making the case that men represent women adequately.

      Sure, when we elect an individual, we elect an individual. But just focusing on that individual and ignoring the larger context (and even denying it's relevant) is something that I'd expect from Libertarians and Republicans, not Democrats/liberals/progressives.

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      Actually, I did mention the power structures that make it more difficult for women--in one of my comments upthread. Based on research posted by either Kristin, female legislators are more effective in office. Why? Because the hoops that they have to jump through to get into office force the cream to rise to the top. Only the best legislators get there.

      If we put that same standard in place for men instead of removing it for women--we'd be a helluva lot better off.

      Based on these comment threads, I'm more convinced than ever that the "we have to elect women" mantra is an empty one. And it's also incredibly condescending.

      We must elect qualified leaders with the guts to do great things should be our mantra.

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    Carla, I don't understand your supportive institution arguments. How do you think they get that way?

    As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

    Since I was a kid, the climate for women in politics has gotten better and in many important respects policy that specifically or disproportionately affects women has gotten better, and the number of women in elected office has risen. The two things are connected.

    Male politicians today are a lot more open to working with women and making woman-benefiting policies because women raised demands. That has included the demand to represent their interests directly by being elected. The feminist politics that raised up the issues and redefined progressivism so that it includes those issues included the issue of representativeness in officialdom. Representativeness as an issue motivates participation and votes which generates responsiveness by lawmakers of both sexes.

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      How do institutions become more supportive? You elect representation to the body in question that chooses to make that a priority. Is it your sincere belief that this only happens by electing certain genders or ethnic groups? If that were the case, women and other minority groups would never get anywhere. The odds are way too stacked. The white, male majority has to be brought along in some way, at some point, for this to occur.

      Women may have indeed raised demands. But so have many men who are sympathetic to them. And I submit that had those men in many cases NOT been champions of those issues, they'd have gone nowhere.

      Just today..this very afternoon, guess which US Senator is pushing harder than ever on breast feeding at work access for women that reflects exactly what was done here in Oregon?

      Hint: It's not a woman.

      Answer: Jeff Merkley.

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        Those men would have most likely gotten nowhere for the same reasons that one study suggests that women have become leaders...because their constituency demands/support it. If we are going to celebrate it in men, surely we can celebrate, support and honor this leadership in women.

        And, with regard to the feminist legislation, here's a link to the full list of it considered or passed in recent memory.


        While being the distinct minority, women were major sponsors of the majority of this legislation either in the Senate or the House. While men were sponsors, too, the back story reveals which I'd be happy to chat about sometime), that was the women approaching the men (as a trend as Chris has pointed out), to become involved, not generally the men approaching the women...

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          We should celebrate and honor it in everyone, no matter their sex. This has been my point from the outset.

          We've already covered the reasons why women do better with progressive legislation, based on the previous research you posted--which I too, am happy to chat about sometime.

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        Carla, straw man, straw man, straw man. Why do you insist that if I want to take gender into account as an element of a very complex process of deciding whom to support, particularly when it is a choice of a number of acceptable candidates, that I am reducing the choice only to that? I'm not and you're arguing against a phantom.

        There is a social heisenberg problem here: I believe that if the legislature were half women and half men (roughly, not exactly, and over time) it would be more representative, and more likely on balance to make choices I liked. I also believe in voting for the best candidate, not regardless of gender, but for the best candidate, including their sex which is part of who they are. Since there are lots of ways of being a man or being a woman it includes that's part of it too.

        I completely agree with your second paragraph above.

        However, it is a historical fact that men have not, with very few exceptions, raised the issues first or independently. If it doesn't matter, why didn't the men running things let women on juries without feminist agitation (to take a very limited equal citizenship, recognize the loss of quality when half the people are excluded kind of example)?

        If what you're trying to get at is that it's impossible to know someone based just on their sex, I agree. Each sex has half of humanity and all the variation that comes within that. Individuals of both sexes take their identities from a wide range of factors, experiences, social situations and relationships, cultural milieus, sources of belief and values, and many times do not act primarily in terms of their gender identities or interests. Conservative women may be motivated mainly by economic interests, or moral ideologies derived from religion or family, or other sources, for example. So of course I don't choose candidates only on sex or gender. It's kind of insulting that you keep insisting that even to consider the matter means it's the only thing people who do so care about. In any case it is plain wrong.

        If the pool of candidates doesn't include more women than at present, we are not getting the full range of best candidates. If legislatures are under 20% women, we are not getting the full range of best legislators.

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    Ha! Given earlier comments about the research, I thought you'd dismissed it entirely. Good to know...

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    Only tangentally related, but I thought I'd share this nugget of hope with you all.

    I used to work in a preschool. Recently, we had gotten a load of hand puppets that promote multicultural ideas. They had a oriental woman dressed as a firefighter, a latino man dressed as a doctor, and a black man in a suit.

    On the first day we got them, we took them out and were showing them to the kids, who were identifying them. "She's a firefighter!" they'd cry, or "He's a doctor!". When we got to the man in the suit, there was a moment of silence, then one little girl spoke up 'That's the President!'. And that is how we got a puppet of Barack Obama in our classroom.

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