The following op-ed by The New Agenda Board Member Caren Z. Turner is cross-posted at The Huffington Post.
When will the women of this nation stop accepting “guilt gifts” from the men in their lives who act abusively?
When will we say “enough is enough” and turn a deaf ear to half-hearted, mealy-mouthed apologies that provide poor salve for hateful and hurtful actions and words?
When will we finally deliver the tough love and consequences for improper behavior?
I’m posing these questions in large measure because October is National Domestic Violence Month. Yet, more specifically, I want to shed light on the ugly abuse women have been experiencing in the political arena this election season as well as election cycles past.
Certainly, it is shamefully obvious that Jerry Brown and his campaign have a real contempt and lack of respect for women. Come on Jerry — “whore?”
Of course when questioned about the use of the sexually derogatory term to refer to Meg Whitman, his Republican opponent in the California race for Governor, Mr. Moonbeam dismissed the slur as simply “salty language”before backing into an insincere apology.
Yet, more disturbing than the slur is the fact that the leaders of the California chapter of the National Organization of Women still insist on endorsing a man who refers to an intellectual giant, one of the leading entrepreneurs of the 21st century, a renowned and respected women, as a “whore.”
In stereotypical June Cleaver fashion, the women of California NOW put the needs of others before self interest. They allowed loyalty to “the Party”, in this case the Democrats, to trump their womanhood.
Every women’s organizations, and for that matter, every men’s organization, should have ZERO tolerance for sexism and anti-woman rhetoric. Slurs and slanders against any woman should mean the automatic cancellation and revocation of All endorsements.
Unfortunately, the disrespect for women and our issues doesn’t begin and end with Jerry Brown. And ironically this dismissive attitude toward women seems most acute in the party most beholden to female voters — Democrats.
Historically, for Democrats, women have been a dependable and constant constituency and this election cycle is no different. Recent polls conclude that 52 percent of women will vote Democrat and 40 percent Republican in the midterms. That is why in this final stretch to the election the President has taken to the campaign trail to urgently woo as many women as possible in a last ditch effort to halt a potential GOP onslaught.
Yet, it is hard to understand our loyalty when the Democrats have shown a lack of support for us and our issues.
Even the staunchest Democrats don’t believe the Party is doing enough, nor has it done enough to promote women into public office, ensure equal opportunities for women, or ensure federal contracts are awarded to women.
It is more than a bit disingenuous, if not downright insulting, to have Democratic leaders come begging in the 11th hour for women to turn out and vote.
You want us to “hold our cute little button noses” and vote the Democratic ticket when the party has all but abandoned many of its female candidates?
According to Politico, Democratic women are in danger of losing electoral ground in the midterm. This reversal of female fortune is due in large measure to the fact that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has decided to cut or dramatically reduce funding to at least 16 percent, (nine of its 56) female House members. Admittedly, the Democrats have pulled funding from a number of male House members as well, but the DCCC “defunding ratio” is approximately 3 women for every man.
Democratic women can’t help but feel somewhat betrayed by the party.
If the Democrats want women to turn out and vote, they need to make some extra efforts to address our needs. Here are ten concrete and measurable steps the DNC can and should immediately take to win women back:
- Set an annual goal of the exact number of women in the House and Senate each year, and provide funding in a manner that will achieve those goals. Publically announce targets and whether they were reached. For example, 20008 women comprised 17% of the US Congress, in 2010 our goal is for women to comprise 20%, 2012, 24% etc.
- Publically set up a “bench” for a woman or several women to run for the presidency in 2016.
- Require each and every federal department to publish the number of women in senior leadership and go on record with a set of future goals for female leadership.
- Develop a party platform that recognizes that women’s rights are defined by power, access, and money rather than just bodily functions such as birth control and abortion.
- Fight for the enforcement of government contract laws to ensure the full participation of women-owned firms.
- Advance and enforce legislation that requires contractors to hire female subcontractors for goods and services.
- Speak out forcefully whenever a female political candidate is demeaned or belittled by virtue of some bodily function or appearance. Call out the offenders and publicly state, from the top down, that this type of behavior is unacceptable and Out of Bounds. The silence has been deafening for too many decades.
- Require every Democratic candidate to sign a pledge that they will NOT attack an opponent on the grounds of sexual identity, bodily functions, nor appearances.
- Require all Democratic candidates to publicize on their websites the percentage of women on their staffs and the percentage of women in the highest paying positions.
- Introduce and pass a law to require publicly traded companies to have target of 30- 50% female board members.
Before you become too comfortable, you Republicans get no pass on this issue — not when men make up 83 percent of Congress.
These ten action items are already being implemented by fellow world leaders. As it stands now 89 other countries boast a higher percentage of female representation in government than the United States. That’s unacceptable. It is imperative that both parties commit to embracing legislation to close America’s glaring gender gap.
Countries as wide ranging as France and India have laws on their books require significant female participation in their governments (40 percent in France and 30 percent in India).
Our neighbor to the north, Canada, has taken the female participation mandate into its corporate board rooms through its Employment Equity Act. And while the legislation doesn’t set quotas, but instead establishes policies to encourage the hiring of women, it has resulted in women holding nearly 30 percent of the jobs in the country’s largest federal and provincial Crown corporations.
Yes, Democrats we hear your pleas. We know you need us to help stem the rising GOP tide. However, the question is — Will we women heed your call?
It’s not enough to turn a blind eye to our needs. It’s not enough to airdrop a study 10 days before the election. Please don’t insult us by noticing us only when it comes time to “turn out and vote.”
And if, by chance, we Democratic and independent women help you keep the House and Senate, know this — we are disillusioned at best, and disgusted or disaffected at worst with the Democratic Party. Apologies for poor behavior and inaction just won’t do. There are consequences.