Ruth Marcus, a truly talented op-ed writer for the Washington Post, asks the question “Where Are All the President’s Woman?”
Here’s the link.
She cites the statistics and asks: “How can it be, in 2017, that only four of 23 Cabinet-level staff members are women, half the number of the first Obama Cabinet? How can it be, in 2017, that of Trump’s 42 nominees for U.S. attorney positions, only one is female?”
But really Marcus’s is not just a column about Donald J Trump’s neglect of women in his administration (what else is new), it is a column about the way men think of women in general when it comes to equal status as important, thinking human beings whose views and opinions deserve attention.
In my own experience, two stories stand out.
One is told by Nancy Pelosi which she has often talked about. She says that when she and Barbara Boxer (both Democrats from California) were new in the House of Representatives they found themselves on the same Committee and attended a closed-door meeting of a select few members. They were the only women present and were ignored. The men did all the talking.
Somehow the men got around to the subject of child birth and began talking about their wives’ experiences and their own in attending to the birth of their children. Pelosi says she turned to Boxer and said “they’ll have to bring us in to this, they’ll have to ask us about our experiences in child birth.”
Wrong. The men never though to do that.
The second story is personal and involves good friends so I’ll name no names, although if, perhaps, they read this blog they’ll recognize themselves.
In late 2008, after the presidential election, the wife gave a dinner for a good friend of hers who was leaving Washington. She and her friend are both dynamic African-American women.
A small group gathered at the family dinner table and as is always the case in Washington, politics, foreign policy, and similar subjects dominated the conversation. The host, the husband, had served in a high post in government and he began the conversation on a topic of foreign policy importance and a retired four star General gave his view and a newsman of far more credentials that I gave his view and I brought up the end with my view. At which point, the host tabled a second subject and off we men went “mashing it out.”
But when it came my turn, It suddenly struck me that what we men were doing was, well, absurd. Just like the Pelosi/Boxer story all the women at the table were sitting silently.
So I said, “On this subject, I think we want to hear what the Secretary of State thinks.”
And Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State in the outgoing George W Bush administration and the guest of honor spoke right up and from that moment on I assure you everyone wanted her to dominate the conversation along with her friend, the hostess. We men were embarrassed and ashamed.
This experience of mine occurred many years ago and I believe our country has made progress in recognizing the rights and equality of women since (still not there but making progress). The fear now, as Ruth Marcus points out, is that Donald J Trump and his merry band of misogynists would take us back to those “good old days” when Bess Truman cleaned up the White House kitchen while Harry wrestled with the decision about dropping the Atomic Bomb.
Guys, even if you’re not on board with the “rightness” of the thing consider that they’re not going to be stopped so you’ll be a lot happier if you get used to it and, as the late Speaker Sam Rayburn used to advise new House member, “go along to get along.”
We will have a woman president. This last election thanks to the Russians, thanks to Comey and thanks to a press that thought the Republicans drum-beat of her Email mistake was the moral equivalence of Donald J Trump’s life time of mistakes, she didn’t make it.
And now she says she’s through with running for office.