Wait, did the women's movement suddenly stop being about obtaining and maintaining equality and start becoming about placing humans with the appropriate reproductive equipment in the biggest and best seats of political power, regardless of their politics? Did we miss a memo? Because with the latest round of kvetching about how Hillary Clinton's new gig is somehow a missed opportunity for the women's movement, it's starting to seem like it.
Between the P.U.M.A.s and La Palin, one would think that if this election season had taught the women's movement anything, it would have been that having a government that pushes for and fairly represents the interests of women is not necessarily related to having women in the government — let alone in proportion to their percentage of the population. Unfortunately, one would be wrong. And Hillary Clinton's primary loss still continues to smart for some women, despite her elevation to the highest cabinet position and to the line of Presidential succession today. As seen in a new story on Reuters:
"Secretary of State has become the women's spot — a safe expected place for women to be. In the ideal world, we'd see woman as Treasury secretary and throughout these ranks (of government)," [Carol Jenkins, president of the Women's Media Center] said.
So the Secretary of State — our face to the world at large, and the first Cabinet member in the Presidential line of succession — is now a soft position? Get a grip! If by virtue of the fact that two of its last three incumbents were women it's now a "girly" position, then we're all contributing to the ghettoization of jobs by making them supposedly too easy for a man to do. Gross.
Stacy Mason, the executive director of WomenCount, is similarly unenthused about the Year of the Woman.
The record number of women in Congress in the new session that opens in January still reflects small net gains in the November elections — one in the U.S. Senate and three in the House of Representatives. As of now, women will number 17 in the 100-member Senate and 74 in the 435-member House. One Ohio race was so close it has not yet been decided.
"It's a really really dismal number ... the U.S. still ranks 83rd in terms of the number of women in elected office," said Mason.
It is not a great number, but, as has been noted before, the number of women who hold political office in a country is hardly the way to judge their equality, positions in society or opportunities. Furthermore, many of us would probably agree that we'd rather elect 100 Joe Bidens or Barack Obamas than 100 Sarah Palins to Congress — let alone Marilyn Musgraves or Liddy Doles. Both of those women lost re-election to other women, which resulted in no net increase in the number of women in Congress but significantly improved the representation of progressive women's issues.
So, while we're more than happy to see more women running for and elected to office, let's all take a deep breath and recognize that if the women's movement is supposed to be one for rights and equality, electing women to office cannot be the be-all, end-all measure of success. Then let's take a deeper breath and think about the fact that of the first 2 people in line for succession to the Presidency, two of them are women. Yes, there are gains to be made — necessary gains, even — but insulting the position of Secretary of State, bemoaning the loss of women without consideration given to their politics and generally insisting on unattainable goals before being able to crack a smile about the achievements of other women aren't going to get us there.
Related: United States Presidential Line Of Succession [Wikipedia]
Earlier: As Far As I'm Concerned, Former Ms. Editor Elaine Lafferty Can Go F-ck Herself
Sarah Palin: When Choosing A Woman Might Not Be Choosing For Women
Do Women Want Equality Of Outcomes Or Opportunities?