Blogging Was Just the Beginning:
Women's Voices are Louder Online
Consider the role of women in American politics. Senator Hillary
Rodham Clinton is running for the presidency. My very own congresswoman,
Nancy Pelosi, runs the U.S. House of Representatives. My state,
California, is represented by two women, Senators Diane Feinstein and
Barbara Boxer. Another woman, Condoleezza Rice, is secretary of state.
Here in San Francisco where I live, we have female fire and police
chiefs and a female district attorney.
In other words, the idea of women being active, involved, and
committed to political life—as candidates and appointees—isn't novel
or even newsworthy. It's a fact. But it's a fact that keeps getting
ignored. Or, as in the case of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential
aspirations, a fact that's used as a distraction: "Will Americans vote
for a female president?" the pundits demand.
That's not the least of it, of course. And as the campaign wears on
we'll hear more and more of this nonsense. But Clinton is not the first
to suffer from sexist distraction.
One of the more striking debates about Howard Dean's 2004
presidential bid was the way his wife's career—and her status as the
family's main breadwinner—was dismissed by the political press corps as
less important than what anyone with even a small amount of political
sense would have seen as a quixotic attempt to claim the White House.
Dean, the governor of a small New England state with almost no national
profile, politically or otherwise, ran an antiwar campaign that was
vibrant but poorly organized and not as well funded as those of his
opponents. Meanwhile Dr. Judy Steinberg Dean
had taken over the family medical
practice she and her husband ran together in Burlington, Vermont. Yet
she was criticized for not leaving her job and her two children—one in
college and the other preparing to attend—to join her spouse on the
campaign trail. The Dean marriage was in trouble, said the pundits—male
and female—because Judy Dean didn't stand by her husband in Iowa.
The Deans aren't poor, of course. But if I had Judy Dean's bills to
pay—try uttering the phrase "two kids in college" without gasping for
air—I'd spend my time making sure my family had a way to make ends meet
just in case this White House thing the husband had his heart set on
didn't work out. And a medical practice without any doctors on staff
wasn't going to cover those bases very well.