Monday, November 3, 2008

Politics: Voting for Women

RED BLUFF, CALIFORNIA - Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Gold Bug Quilters Guild in Diamond Springs, California (near Placerville). The unusual thing about it was that of the about fifty people in attendance, I was the only male. Invited by my great aunt and her daughter, I was able to contrast how the meeting was different than historical society meetings, which tend to be gender balanced, and railroad club meetings, which tend to be male dominated. Had I planned to study such a contrast, I couldn't have picked a better night.

The group's main annual event, a quilt show, was in upheaval because of a volunteer shortage and the President's handling of this announcement was infused with humor, persuasion, and appeals for everyone's suggestions and opinions. I simply can't imagine a male-run organization being so concerned with getting everyone's position even on a major topic--at most, perhaps there would be a vote on which the majority would rule. The bulk of the meeting was actually an auction to raise money for the group. On more than one occasion, I observed people talking to each other to find out what each wanted in a multi-item lot and various deals cut to not out-bid one another and still get what each really wanted. Any such cooperation amongst a group of men would be the exception, rather than the rule it seemed to be in this group.

I don't like to draw gender stereotypes as I know plenty of women that would fit in culturally just fine at a railroad group meeting and, despite being a male, I rather liked how the Gold Bug Quilters Guild operated; if I were a quilter, I would fit in just fine. But, on this eve of Election Day, the experience underscored why I have a bias toward female candidates in any election.

All other things being equal--which they never are--I would rather have the focus on cooperation and inclusion of everyone's opinion in our legislative bodies which was observed at the Quilters' Guild. Instead, we usually get political brinksmanship, power plays, and punitive measures--stereotypical male behaviors. In a time when the US congress is so ideologically divided, it desperately needs the stereotypically female behaviors.

I end up voting for plenty of men in races which are a male candidate against a female candidate, but I admit that largely because of the above factor, I am biased toward female candidates. When I start reading a voter's guide on a race with which I am not completely familiar, I look for reasons that I shouldn't be voting for a woman (which are sometimes found), whereas I generally look for reasons to vote for a man in the first place.

The United States is still pathetic in female representation, with less than 15% of either the house or the senate made up of women. Even in the so-called Year of the Woman (1992), only four women were elected to move the overall Senate makeup to 6% female.

It's something to think about when going to polls tomorrow.

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