Oh, my goodness, we women do have a way of holding each other back from crashing through the glass ceiling. It’s almost as if those who manage to shatter a small part of that thick glass wind up impaling themselves on the shards, or getting stabbed in the back by women on the rungs just below.
Is that too harsh? Well, consider the contretemps over the “women’s vote” and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton.
Pundits are making much of the fact that the “younger women’s vote” is trending quite aggressively toward Senator Bernie Sanders, a progressive lefty whose age and gender seem to make no difference to younger voters, and that’s as it should be. Yet, gender seems to make all kinds of difference for former Secretary of State Clinton, and her age also gets mentioned more than it should. Call out the double standard and risk being seen as weak, paranoid or sour grapes.
Candidate Clinton got it just right in the PBS Democratic debate when she said that we women should vote for whomever will make the best president, the candidate best qualified to be commander-in-chief, the person with skills and experience, not judged by biology. But of course people make decisions based on superficial characteristics all the time which is why racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination continue to stunt the growth of so much potential.
And that’s the reason why women and men both should analyze the candidates carefully for their ability to stand up to the pervasive and insidious forms of discrimination that still haunt so much of American society. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stepped on a landmine in New Hampshire when she said, using a phrase she has used often in the past, that, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Twitter exploded, Snapchat roared, and guess what — rightwing pundits had a field day watching women rip each other to shreds over the implication that women should vote for the woman candidate. Commentaries abound about the “problem” of older, privileged white women who carry the feminist banner from the ’60’s claiming to know better than women of other ages, races and social class levels what’s best for them. Is that any different from Donald Trump insisting that he knows what’s best for you? So the argument goes…
But Secretary Albright made a great deal of sense in her subsequent op-ed in the New York Times when she wrote,
“What concerns me is that if we do not pay careful attention to this history, the gains we have fought so hard for could be lost, and we could move backward… The battle for gender equality is still being waged…When women are empowered to make decisions, society benefits. They will raise issues, pass bills and put money into projects that men might overlook or oppose. Despite decades of progress, women still make less money than men for equivalent work. Paid family leave remains an elusive dream. Sexual abuse against women continues to plague our communities.”
Women should certainly vote for whomever they wish, but we also need to bring the perspectives and concerns we share to the table and insist that all candidates give us fair and honest answers. We hear candidates bellowing about how they will destroy healthcare reform, for example, with no good substitute on the horizon. Healthcare is a huge issue for women, we must pay attention to what the candidates are saying about their plans to improve it. We’ve heard precious little from any candidate about improving the conditions for affordable housing in communities, creating better paying jobs, ensuring equal pay for equal work, improving child care services and, perhaps most important, plans for education at all levels. So much time in the debates has been allowed to dissipate in personal attacks and shameful grandstanding, yet we know very little about plans to build a much better American society in the future.
What do you care about? Trinity Women have always been at the forefront of American political debate. We are so fortunate to have on our faculty today former Congresswoman and Distinguished Professor Barbara Kennelly, Class of 1958, who is a voice of clear wisdom on many issues including the imperative to have women present at the table when important legislative decisions are made. Our Alumna Nancy Pelosi, Class of 1962, the first and only woman to be Speaker of the House, continues to do amazing work at the Democratic Leader. She is an ardent champion for women’s rights and never tires of reminding us that women must be present every place where decisions are being made on issues that affect women, children and families.
In the days to come, we will have opportunities on campus to discuss more about all of the issues in the current campaign. Please be actively engaged — whatever candidate you favor, whatever positions you espouse, what’s most important is to be involved, speak your mind, and in the end, please VOTE!
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