Women's issues are men's, too

Myriam Marquez

May 22, 1992|By Myriam Marquez

EVERY FOUR years, we hear about the gender gap and how women voters will be the deciding factor in one political race or another.

And every four years, we're told that more women than ever before are running for local, state and national offices and that this will make a difference because the men in power will have to be more "sensitive" to the concerns of women voters.

And now we're hearing that it's The Year of the Woman for the U.S. Senate, which has several women running for a seat, thanks to Anita Hill's ill-treatment before all those graying white men in chambers. Well, excuse me if I don't jump for joy just yet.

Women have been led down this road of high expectations in every election since the 1970s, only to wind up at a dead end come November.

Sure, a few more women get elected most every election cycle, but at the top, in the Congress, the numbers are nowhere near where they need to be for a representative democracy.

It's not good that only 2 percent of the U.S. Senate is female. Many of the concerns expressed by more than half our population are either not addressed or are glossed over because the men in power still view these concerns as petty little women's issues.

Worse, the media unwittingly contribute to the labeling. Every election, we get the obligatory story on how politicians are becoming more "sensitive" to women's issues. Aren't they everybody's issues?

Equal pay for equal work will most definitely affect men, if companies start lowering men's pay in some jobs to compensate for inequities.

Family leave policies, which most every industrialized nation has, would benefit men as well, allowing either men or women to care for sick children or parents in emergencies.

Abortion and sexual harassment are two issues that affect men as strongly as women on both sides of the debate.

In any case, women are simply selling themselves short by allowing men in power to continue to frame all of these very important issues as things that concern only women.

Defense spending, for instance, is as much a concern for women as it is for men. What we spend on defense can make a difference on whether we'll ever be able to afford a national health-care plan or family leave policies or day-care benefits.

That three women are gaining ground to the U.S. Senate in their states of Pennsylvania, Iowa and Illinois is certainly good news. But let's be realistic; even if they win, the Senate will still be 95 percent male.

To get to the Senate, women need to get involved in their communities, but unfortunately, not enough women are going about it the right way.

Local advisory boards, while they sound dreadfully boring, are a necessary building block in most political careers. Yet this is one area where women are vastly underrepresented.

It's most often not what you know about a board's responsibilities that gets you on one, it's who you know. Unfortunately, the good old boy network is still around in many towns to call the shots on who gets on these very prestigious and quite powerful boards.

Women need to put the pressure on their elected local officials to bring equal representation to these boards.

After all, this is 1992. How much longer are women willing to sit back and blame the men in power for lack of leadership? We've waited too long already.

Myriam Marquez is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.

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