One invariable element of the laundry list of grievances cited by feminists for the proposition that society is a deck stacked against women is the fact that, compared to men, there aren’t many women who hold public office. Indeed, I remember many years ago hearing U.S. Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, D – CO, inform us that it was “outrageous” that the percentage of women serving in Congress was so low. The emphasis in her voice and her “frown and wrinkled lip” gave all and sundry the impression that she was well and truly ticked off.
Back then, I didn’t know much about the subject, but my off-the-cuff reaction was “Hey, we live in a democracy. People vote, and women outvote men. So what’s outrageous? Does Schroeder really believe that women are biased against female candidates?”
Of course my common-sense approach to the issue didn’t hold any water with feminists. When they think they’ve got an issue, they don’t let it go, facts and logic be damned. So, as I said, the comparative lack of women holding elected office has remained a staple of feminist wah-wahing over the years.
In the meantime, we’ve learned the reason women don’t get elected to office. It’s because they don’t run for office. That’s true throughout the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe. In fact, France had to pass a law fining political parties if they fail to run gender-balanced slates. That’s a significant impetus for the parties to recruit female candidates. After all, who wants to pay the fine when all you have to do is slap a woman’s name on the ballot? So what do the parties do? They pay the fine. They just can’t seem to recruit many women to run for office.
Now, feminists weren’t born yesterday and their long experience has allowed them to polish to a high gloss the art of victimhood. So it’s not enough to point out that, in order to get elected, one must toss one’s pillbox in the ring. They have a ready-made answer for that, as you knew they would.
The feminist answer is that the business of electoral politics simply isn’t conducive to participation from women. It’s a key part of The Patriarchy’s stranglehold on women that it’s convinced people – men and women alike – that women aren’t as good as men, not as worthy. So, given that, it’s no surprise that women (and men) don’t elect women to office. Both sexes look down on women, believing them to be insufficiently smart, tough, whatever, to do the important job of representing We the People.
Therefore, since The Patriarchy has so stacked the deck that women can’t get elected, women, not being fools, don’t run. Why play a game you can’t win?
With that excuse firmly in hand, feminists figure it’s a job well done. Once again, The Patriarchy is the all-purpose answer to every feminist complaint and, as an extra added bonus, they don’t even need to fudge the figures. What’s so inconvenient about things like domestic violence, child custody, violent crime, etc. is that, if you’re a feminist, you’re always having to make stuff up. But with electoral politics, the data are there for all to see. Women really do make up only a small percentage of office-holders.
But of course they’re wrong – again. The problem with the feminist claim that evil men have convinced everyone that women are too deficient to merit your vote is that it’s just not true. We know it’s not true. We’ve known it definitively for almost 20 years.
That’s when three political science researchers did the obvious thing. Prof. Richard A. Seltzer at Howard University, and Jody Newman and Melissa Voorhees-Leighton of the National Women’s Political Caucus looked at election results to find out if female candidates really did find themselves behind the 8-ball on election day.
And they didn’t go half measures either. For their 1997 book, Sex as a Political Variable, the three analyzed every single race for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate from 1972 – 1994. They also examined every race for state legislatures in the years 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1994. That all added up to a whopping 61,603 candidates.
Knowing how important incumbency is to a candidate’s prospects for success at the ballot box, Seltzer, et al divided candidates into three types, incumbents, open-seat challengers, and challengers (i.e. those running against incumbents). They divided them further into male and female candidates.
And guess what. The findings were as clear as a mountain stream.
“When women run, women win… as often as men do. Our study found no difference between success rates for men and women in general elections. Based on the overwhelming weight of the data gathered, the conclusion is clear: A candidate’s sex does not affect his or her chances of winning an election.
…[W]hen men running as incumbents were compared with women running as incumbents, men running for open seats with women running for open seats, and men running as challengers with women running as challengers, men had no advantage over women; women won as high a percentage of their races as men.
The percentage of women holding office at each level is strikingly similar to the percentage of women candidates who have sought each public office. From 1972 – 1994, 8 percent of the candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate were women, and in 1995, women made up 11 percent of the House and 8 percent of the Senate. Since 1986, 21 percent of state legislative candidates have been women and in 1995 women made up 22 percent of all state legislators.
So, for example, in state house races, male incumbents won 93.8% of the time while female incumbents won 93.6%. In open seat races, men won 53% and women 52.2%. Male challengers won 9.7% of the time and female challengers 10.9%.
In state senate races, it was more of the same. Male incumbents – 92.2%; female incumbents – 90.1%. Male open-seat candidates – 54.9%; female open-seat candidates – 55.8%. Male challengers – 11.6%; female challengers – 15.2%.
And in U.S. House races, male incumbents won 94.8% of the time while female incumbents won 93.6%. Male open-seat candidates – 51.2%; female open-seat candidates – 47.9%. Male challengers 6.2%; female challengers – 4.0%.
Why don’t women run for office? Good question. Maybe they’re smart enough to avoid the disgraceful clown act that electoral politics has increasingly become. Maybe the public ceremony of false sincerity, false humility and false gravitas sickens them. Maybe the deception of pretending to care about The People while carrying the water for moneyed interests fails to allure. Who knows? But whatever the reason, it’s not because they can’t get elected if they try.
What a surprise; the feminists are wrong again. It seems the mean ol’ Patriarchy has once again failed in its singular goal of keeping women in their place – pregnant and chained to the stove. The men who run things and who daily connive to persuade us that women are lesser beings seem to have blown it again.
People aren’t at all convinced that men are superior to women. In the author’s word, “overwhelmingly” they ignore the sex of the candidates on the ballot. The simple fact is that sex just doesn’t enter into the decision about whom to vote for (or against). Unlike feminists, people respect women every bit as much as they do men, at least in the realm of electoral politics.
I know this comes as terrible news to radical feminists who desperately hope and pray for everyday people to demean and despise women. If only the unwashed masses who’ve never attended a Women’s Studies course would fall into line and behave the way feminist discourse predicts, feminists would have a lot easier time of it. If only their voting patterns betrayed a deep-seated mistrust of women, those radical feminists would have something to point to when they say The Patriarchy brainwashes everyone to devalue women.
Sadly, people don’t share the anti-female bias of feminists. Most folks actually seem to think men and women are about equally deserving of respect.