"Just Tell Them...

I have worked 40 years to make the Women's Suffrage platform broad enough for Atheists and Agnostics to stand upon, and now if need be I will fight the next 40 to keep it Catholic enough to permit the straightest Orthodox religionist to speak or pray and count her beads upon."

Susan B. Anthony

Monday, January 19, 2009

Preparing Your Comebacks for the 51% Argument: Proportional Representation is the New Women's Suffrage

I was reading HEIDI LI'S BLOG about her 51% effort this morning. And it got me thinking....

Yesterday I wore my buttons from THE NEW AGENDA to generate conversation. And they worked! Folks at my church (a progressive denomination) were actually quite shocked to know how disproportional was women's representation in our government. They had never thought about THAT.

We "Feminists" nowadays, tend to think about a few high profile women... like Hillary Clinton, or Sarah Palin. We look at their accomplishments and convince ourselves that we have "made it." In fact, though, we have a very long way to go.

Look at it this way: Proportional Representation *is* the New Women's Suffrage. We're going to need to stand on some very powerful shoulders to accomplish what Fifty-One Percent, and The New Agenda have set out to do. We're going to have to go beyond PUMA. We need to reach across the chasm of party divide... to bring in women from BOTH sides of the proverbial aisle.

When I post about my new buttons, or 51% on MY TEAM SARAH PAGE I receive a wholly different kind of reaction than I did at the UU church. There I see what I will call a "typical Conservative comeback." Grounded in thinking that, in essence, holds it's NOT about having *women* in govenment, it's about having GOOD women. No matter how few their numbers.

My response to this kind of "Conservative logic" is thus: "Yes, and it's about having good men too."

It is true, perhaps, that if we only count "good women" in our percentages.... the ratio will actually be less balanced. But, if we only count "good men", as well I bet it would be more balanced. (No matter what yardstick they are using to measure "good" at this point you see the lightbulb come on.)

These are the kinds of discussions I get when I post about 51%, or wear my New Agenda buttons. From the Left, surprise. From the Right, cynicism (and maybe disdain, if they perceive 51% as a form of "affirmative action.") I'm aware that I need to be ready with my comebacks. And I'd love to hear your ideas as well!

I'd like to end this post with a couple of quotes from Susan B. Anthony. These, I feel, offer us a blueprint for how to proceed with The New Women's Suffrage. Because we will not be successful unless we can answer the concerns of women from both "Liberal" and "Conservative" backgrounds.

• What you should say to outsiders is that a Christian has neither more nor less rights in our Association than an atheist. When our platform becomes too narrow for people of all creeds and of no creeds, I myself shall not stand upon it.

• I tell them I have worked 40 years to make the Women's Suffrage platform broad enough for Atheists and Agnostics to stand upon, and now if need be I will fight the next 40 to keep it Catholic enough to permit the straightest Orthodox religionist to speak or pray and count her beads upon. ~ Susan B. Anthony

(Many thinks to Goldie, at WOMEN IN POLITICS for calling these two quotes to my attention.)



ADDENDUM: Also suggested: HOW TO GET FROM 17% to 50%. by Cynthia Ruccia.


  1. Anonymous7:32 AM

    There's been a lot of good talk about gender voting over at The New Agenda -- mostly in threads about Caroline Kennedy.

  2. As I see it, it's not so much about "Gender Voting" as it is about empowering women to run.

    And removing obstacles to their doing so.

    The first thing that must be reckoned with is the MSM's penchant for taking down any and every women who even attempts a run.

    And, as for Caroline Kennedy... I am not really against her being a Senator. But, I do not think a women should need a powerful political family like the Kennedy's in order to be protected from the likes of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann.

  3. Anonymous6:08 PM

    I agree about empowering women to run rather than almost any form of gender voting. And giving as much help as we can to qualified women who are running, regardless of their positions (such as Sarah Palin).

    Maybe what's needed is some non-partisan pushback against sexist media attacks. We may not agree with Palin on everything, but we can defend her against false charges etc.

    1950democrat - posted as anon above and as fsteele at TNA

  4. Anonymous5:38 PM

    Hi SyD,

    Well said. I congratulate you on your activism and your ability to cross party lines. Feminists need to be able to communicate with people across the political spectrum.

    I'm also in complete awe of all that Heidi Li does for the cause in addition to being a full-time law professor.

  5. I am blessed to have been raised by both Dems and Republicans!

    My mom hails from a GOP family of small businessmen (painters.)

    My dad was blue collar, from a long line of fishermen.

    I have always followed Dad's footsteps politically. Because I am a social liberal at heart. But, truth be told ... I can see good and bad in either party. And this year re-awakened me to the party of my grandpa.

    If the GOP would just chuck their affiliation with the far right, religious fanatics.... I'd seriously consider them as my home party.

    Maybe Obama's cozying up to Warren and his ilk will diffuse that vice grip the wingnuts seem to have on the GOP? One could hope??


  6. Anonymous8:14 AM

    Another point made at The New Agenda is that women agree on 80% of the issues and that we should focus on the 80% that we agree on instead of the 20% we disagree on. When convincing people to vote women regardless of party or position (usually choice), I think it would be helpful to focus on that 80%. Maybe that could be a useful "come back". For example, anytime I mention the idea of voting women regardless of party or position, the first thing people say is "I cannot vote for a woman who is antichoice". My come back could be, "do you believe in ...." and list the 80% we do agree on. If they do agree, then I would say, so does this candidate, then magically win them over! So, what I would like to see is a list of the 80% issues that women do agree on. Does anyone have a link to a study or site showing that 80%? If so, I think it would be helpful to post these issues 80% on all 51% or parity in government or vote women sites.

  7. Anonymous11:40 AM

    You make a good point, SYD. For those who think we should only have "good" women (however they define that)...uh, no. Women need to be represented, exactly as men are. Some good, some not.

  8. Actually, what I hope is that ALL of our representatives will be "good" ones.

    And that 51% of them will be women!