What do the Midterms Mean to Congressional Women?

Congress Sure, 113 GOP women challenged incumbents compared to 80 Democrats but the Democrats had a 46 percent success rate compared to only 28 for the Republicans. And Democrat women still far outnumber Republican women in Congress.Sarah Palin’s Mama Grizzlies were extinctified in the recent midterms (can I use that expression, Sarah? I made it up myself!).

What the heck happened to all those Republican women? Those strong-hearted Mama Grizzlies like Angle and O’Donnell and Fiorina? Women didn’t do so well. Women got elected, sure, but there will be no more women in Congress as a result of those elections than there were before.

CNN reports some basic facts about women in American government, and they’re sobering:

  • Record number of new GOP faces in Congress in 2011 will be women
  • Overall number of women in Congress will not increase, however
  • Women make up 17 percent of Congress
  • U.S. ranks 90th in the world when it comes to number of women in national legislatures.

“In fact,” CNN goes on to reveal, “this election year will mark the first time in nearly three decades that women have not increased their ranks in Congress.” There is something that must be pointed out, however, with regards to America’s ranking in the world: other countries have quotas that ensure enough women serve.

Still, 17 percent is not too impressive and it doesn’t sound like we took step forward, which is no surprise considering we’re talking about a Republican victory.

Before you start saying the Democrats are afraid of strong Republican women, think about this:

Sure, 113 GOP women challenged incumbents compared to 80 Democrats but the Democrats had a 46 percent success rate compared to only 28 for the Republicans. And Democrat women still far outnumber Republican women in Congress.

Sarah Palin can try to co-opt feminism for her own non-feminist purposes but the numbers don’t lie.

And leadership roles? Fuhgeddaboudit!

The Democrats had a female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. She will likely remain minority leader.

Three women, all Democrats, will be losing their committee chairs:

  • Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) Chair, House Rules Committee;
  • Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) Chair, Small Business Committee, and
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) Chair, House Ethics Committee.

If you’re keeping track, that’s three Democratic women out of leadership positions, four if you count Pelosi. CNN reports that only one woman is likely to assume a committee chair position:

The only woman expected to take over a House committee is [Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen, who is likely to become chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The new Republican Speaker of the House is a male. And not one single member of his leadership team is a woman. All men. Boehner’s Boys they’re already calling them. Crazy Michele Bachman tried to break into that Good Old Boys club but failed. She dropped out of the running on Wednesday.

The highest ranked Republican woman will be ranked fifth from the top, counting the Speaker. This will be Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, who it is believed will retain her vice chair of the House GOP Conference.

I guess Republicans don’t mind women in the House, they just want them in the kitchen.

So what is it with Republicans and women? You can say in defense of the GOP that there are too few Republican women with seniority to assume leadership roles but whose fault is that? It’s not the fault of Democrats that there have been few GOP women; after all, we elect plenty of our own. The blame points squarely where it belongs: at the GOP Good Old Boys club.

The accusation of misogyny has been laid before their door already, and it’s still on the table. The recent elections featured many female Republican candidates but few were elected and none of them were given leadership roles. This doesn’t sound like a female-friendly bunch.

And let’s face it, where the general elections were concerned and Democrats played a part, you can’t pretend that Angle, O’Donnell and Fiorina were candidates who could be or should be taken seriously. It was a joke, right? Had to be. It wasn’t sexism that defeated the Three Amigas but “stupidism,” the tendency of voters to reject outrageously, catastrophically incompetent candidates.

I mean it was a joke, right? Tell me it was a joke.

But Republicans have a difficult time coming to grips with their racism and they have a difficult time coming to grips with their misogyny. They like to throw both back at liberals and make the claim that liberals are racists and misogynists but the facts just don’t bear this out. The GOP is its own worst enemy, so anti-everything that it’s created a tent too small for anyone but a few rich white men and their sycophants.

Why a woman would even want to join this group is beyond me but to each his own. The point is that the Republicans are not interested in advancing a feminist agenda; they don’t believe in feminism because deep down in their heart of hearts they don’t believe women are as good as men. Look at the bimbos in push-up bras they line up to sell their propaganda on FOX News. If they took women seriously, you wouldn’t be seeing that.

But they don’t, and I think that says it all.

12 Replies to “What do the Midterms Mean to Congressional Women?”

  1. Interesting and thought provoking. Traister writes that: Palin’s candidacy had empowered Republican women eager to claim their share of the feminist legacy and transform its institutions by making them more amenable to their antiabortion positions and conservative policy positions.” So, I’m relieved to read your post, but I believe that Palin has sadly activated a portion of “neo-feminist” women and I fear that kind of activism. I covered this in my Thursday blog if you’ve got a chance to check it out.

  2. Thank you. Another point of view was offered by Care2 http://www.care2.com/causes/womens-rights/blog/the-real-problem-with-the-mama-grizzlies/

    “The feminist community spent a great deal of time, energy and pixels debating whether Sarah Palin has co-opted feminism with her Mama Grizzlies push. Thinking it over, though, I am more inclined that it isn’t feminism that Palin has tried to redefine, but motherhood itself.”

    I read your post and I think it’s very much to the point. I liked this line in particular:

    “Go ahead, then Republicans, go after your own feminist legacy, but don’t expect any of us to take this seriously if the pretty, colorful package is covering up an empty box.”

  3. Thank you Hrafnkell, that was a good link to an interesting and very credible viewpoint. If anything, Sarah Palin and her ilk have awakened a very sizable group of women who want nothing to do with her exclusionary, dim-witted ideas. It certainly has motivated me to work to promote women politicians with brains (and if beauty is there as well, I’m sure it’s not something they’ll use).

  4. The minorities and women that the GOP promotes have the same reactionary views that the party itself advocates. So, women like Angle, O’Donnell, and Palin would represent a change only in gender. Blacks of either sex like Allen West represent a change only in race. Either way, they advocate the same regressive policies that have driven this country into a ditch. I totally agree that Boehner wants to be surrounded by other good old boys, but this is in no way a defense of Bachmann. She is another nutcase like the other three , and I have no sympathy for any of them.

    As far as Palin’s “co-opting” of motherhood is concerned, how can anyone who knows anything about her track record as a mother seriously think of her as a model of motherhood? Her being anti-abortion and having given birth to 5 kids means little when she seems not to have prepared them too well for life by pushing education or giving critical information about sexual matters in addition to “abstinence only.” Also, how can any mother in her right mind want to repeal health care reform?

    It’s also comical that anyone would try to use sexism as an excuse for why these women didn’t win. They were just plain stupid, and pushing them as candidates was indefensible. But it speaks volumes about the GOP’s strategy of winning by any means necessary. In any case, women’s issues are not important to the Party of No, and I firmly believe that they have a vested interest in maintaining their good old boy network.

  5. You’re welcome. You know the thing that has always surprised me is that anyone things these dim-witted women are attractive, let alone beautiful. I don’t think anyone with a room-temperature IQ can be deemed beautiful.

  6. Like I say, Anne, “stupidism” If that makes me prejudiced against catastrophically stupid people well, so be it. Guilty as charged. It’s being expected to take these people seriously that really offends me. I can hear Samuel L. Jackson’s voice in my head: “You’re my opponent? Is this a joke??”

  7. Why should republican women care if they get elected, their “men” will take care of them. The bible tells us so!!!!!

    Seriously, if they don’t win, they can go on Fox news as a “news analyst” like sarah palin or as a contributor OR, they can get their own reality show!
    The possibilities and money are unlimited.

  8. You are so right to call them “catastrophically stupid,” because they are indeed the prime examples of the destructive stupidity that can ruin this country from within if unchecked.

  9. Money seems to be what it’s all about, a steady paycheck, a nice office – and the socialized medicine they don’t want the rest of us to have.

  10. Excellent analysis, Hraf.

    What the GOP was doing with its “year of Republican women” was no different than what Anita Bryant did years ago. The women who buy into this think they are empowering themselves, much like girls who let themselves be shot on “Girls Gone Wild” think they are empowering themselves. How did the framing of feminism become something that doesn’t represent feminism? Easy. Years of propaganda via corporations selling us ideas which just so happen to benefit a certain segment of the population. The notion that feminist are bad and ugly men-haters is as outdated and tired as Anita Bryant’s wig, but the Right is still trotting that out via their bewigged “hot” mouthpieces.

    There’s nothing wrong with being beautiful and sexy. There is something wrong with selling yourself as a sexual commodity and in the process betraying the inherent value of feminism (equality) and then calling yourself a feminist for political packaging purposes (and to avoid media scrutiny). Turncoats are nothing new and it’s a job that pays well, which makes sense if you look at what’s behind it. And as you point out, beautiful is hard to pull off when you lack substance.

    All of this focus on exteriors/packing is what really disturbs me. If women were equals, we wouldn’t be talking about how any of politician looked except in passing, as we note Boehner’s faux tan or Scott Brown’s previous life as a model.

  11. you wonder why ladies would even want to go into the Republican Party. I want to SSA in question why they have a Republican Latino Caucus, a black Republican caucus and a gay Republican caucus. I have to ask why any of those people would be in the Republican Party given their actions of the last two years. Have they been blindfolded on purpose?

    I never really looked at the Republican Party as the grand old party of whites, but then again I really don’t think that way. I probably wouldn’t notice it if it fell on me. But after seeing some of the the candidates they threw in this year it looked to me like they wanted to be known as putting up on display as fodder that the Republicans do like women, but at the same time making sure they would lose so they wouldn’t be in the party.

  12. Thank you, Sarah. Beauty should be beside the point. We all know looks matter in the public eye and they probably meant a lot more back before they had elections and you wanted people to follow you. But looks aren’t what we’re voting for; we’re voting for what’s inside a person. Unfortunately, the GOP – women included, doesn’t seem to get that or they wouldn’t let their sex be co-opted by a misogynist political movement.

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