Women need to be embraced as leaders — but not out of fear or necessity. It should happen the right way, or else the Right will merely be seen as a bunch of weak-willed reactionary little boys sending their women out to do their fighting for them.
Yes, I will give you a minute to catch your breath from laughing. “It should happen the right way.” Oh, dear god, what do you suppose the right way looks like? All the Republican men put on their best suits and throw their overcoats over large Democratic puddles and beg Republican women into stepping daintily into leadership roles? Or maybe all the Republican women are supposed to marry good leaders and throw all their weight into supporting those men, and then, when and if the men die in office, it would be “right” for the women to take over their spots, at least until a new election?
“It should happen the right way.” That is so awesome. And if you’re a woman with any kind of ambition, you sure as hell recognize that elbow when it’s thrown. “It should happen the right way” is totally code for “I just now noticed you were up to something cool that I should have been a part of all along and so I will try my best to butt you out of the way so that I can get ahead of the curve.”
“It should happen the right way” is “you are threatening my understanding of how things work.”
“It should happen the right way” is totally “Men should dole out power to women as we men see fit; it’s unseemly for them to take it.”
Here’s the thing. If you can’t let go of your notion that men are the people around whom the world revolves and women are lovely accessories, if you really think that women coming to power in the Tennessee Republican Party says something about the men (I mean, seriously. A whole column about women coming to power and the “thoughtful” end is how this reflects on men? Ha ha ha ha ha. Sometimes, stuff doesn’t reflect on men. What women do often doesn’t tell you much about men. Because, truly, it is not always all about the men.), you are completely missing the point.
There are three things coming together in an interesting way here in Tennessee. One is just the public acknowledgment of a private truth. Rural women and rural men do not lead lives very different from each other. Yes, this means they often face harsher social segregation, in order to enforce gender norms, but their day to day lives are not and have not been very different. Tennessee women have always been extremely competent and brash and able to lead. They’ve had to be in order to survive.
In the past, smart, ambitious women, if in the right class, would marry men whose interests they shared and they would devote their lives to fulfilling that man’s destiny. You might not be able to be a politician, but you sure could campaign and host gala events and backroom maneuver in service of your husband.
Today, you can be a politician for yourself. You can have your ambitions and your husband can have his.
Which brings us to the second thing happening–basic, humanitarian feminist ideals have permeated so far into our culture that even non-feminist women have basic, core feminist values they expect for themselves. They expect to speak and be listened to. They expect to be able to run for office and win. They expect recognition for their own work and to have that work attributed to them and not to their spouses. And they expect to have enough freedom of movement to be able to travel around and campaign.
Huge feminist victories that have changed the basic fabric of our society have allowed for the rise of the public woman (well, of the public woman as something other than a woman of low moral character).
And third, feminists are still enough of a bogey-person (ha) among conservatives, that Republican woman can go a long way–thanks to feminists–while insisting that they are not like those FEMINISTS!!!! Even though, they clearly are. I mean, you folks who lived through the 60s and 70s, when men were hollering about how feminists just wanted to be men, isn’t it hilarious that the first militant female congressman is Marsha Blackburn? And she’s a “Congressman” as some kind of anti-feminist stance? Hilarious.
I mean, yeah, as a feminist, it does make me roll my eyes to see all these TNGOP women building off of the successes feminists have won for them while at the same time pretending to be the same old women they’ve always been.
But I also believe that women being able to rise to such prominence in the Republican party can be a good thing for all women, regardless of political stripe.
And I’d like to urge the Democrats, if they’re still in the business of imitating the Republicans, to get busy imitating them in this regard as well.