kept the flowers

wait, this river of tears iz unequal

Nancy Boehner cryingPelosi has arguably been the most effective House Speaker ever, but also the most demonized. She’s been called a witch, had her picture photoshopped among ‘evil’ flames, and made the villain in hundreds of attack ads.

But can you even imagine the malicious, gendered insults that would fly if Pelosi had cried at the drop of a hat?

It would be out of control. Why? Because she’s a weepy woman who can’t control her crazy emotions, of course! I bet it would cause Congress, pundits, and voters to immediately write her off as ineffective and ridiculous.

Now of course people are making fun of Speaker John Boehner’s recent and recurring episodes of turning on the water works.

But are they approaching him the same way they would a woman doing the exact same thing? Of course not. Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly spent maybe 35 seconds on it; his guest saying the “third time is a little too much,” and O’Reilly thinking it’s genuine.

Had O’Reilly been talking about a woman—Hillary, Pelosi, or Boxer, for example—I’m sure none of his adjectives of choice would include ‘genuine.’ A woman leader with a reputation of bawling frequently would be called weak, annoying, pathetic; her ability to lead would be questioned and her reputation forever tainted.

On the flip side, since it’s still not kosher for men to cry in our society, having our House Speaker weep repeatedly is rather out of the norm. He will continue to receive male-specific flak for his sobbing spells, which isn’t fair either.

The lesson for today, kids? Gender stereotypes hurt everyone.

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Where is my voice in Congress?

I’ll tell you where – nowhere. That’s because even in 2010, our national legislature is still filled with old white guys. (Did you look around the room during the State of the Union? Scary).

These people make decisions about my uterus, what reproductive health services I might access, and even who I can marry.

But I’m sure they have my best interests at heart. Surely this guy –> knows the best way for me to prevent unintended pregnancy. I’m sure he knows exactly what a mid-20s female’s concerns and priorities are.

But what if he doesn’t? (He doesn’t, by the way). Who else in Congress can I trust to ensure my needs are met? Maybe a woman?

We have a whopping 90 out of 435 Congress members who are women. Eek. Well, what about my state legislators – certainly they directly affect my life. Facts from CAWP:

Virginia State Senate: Total Senators: 40, Total Women: 8
Virginia State House: Total Members: 100, Total Women: 17

And, of course, our governor is male.

Hmm. What about younger people – is there anyone even remotely close to my age? Barely. There’s no one from Generation Y and only a handful from Generation X.

What about non-religious folks? (I’m pretty tired of laws being made because the Bible says so). Of course – most of Congress is Christian. How about sexual orientation? I’m straight, but I know a lot of LGBTQ folks who could use a voice in Congress, and as far as I’m concerned, their rights are equally important to mine. Not shockingly, there are maybe three openly gay members of Congress. There has never been an openly gay Senator.

So basically the only part of me “represented” in government is my race? That simply will not do, for many reasons:

  1. I’m white – I’m pretty set.
  2. If I was a different race, I would want more than just that reflected in my government.
  3. It’s not 1776 anymore. Our country is insanely and wonderfully diverse. Do they not get a voice?
  4. We need both the wisdom of the older lawmakers and the fresh eyes of the young. Progress requires new ideas.
  5. Clearly the white men in Congress have no idea what it’s like to be a woman. They should not be deciding our reproductive fates by themselves.

Also, as a mid-20s white female, I happen to care about the rights of all other demographics. It’s a complete fantasy to think about our federal government being elected differently – so I have to wonder: When will our government ever accurately reflect our society? How many years will it take for Congress to catch up?

I’m sure I’ll see great strides in my lifetime – but if no one is willing to stand up and fight for equal representation, the change will happen all too slowly.

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