Women can hold their pontificating own
Back by popular demand: Examining why men dominate elective office in our democratic republic.
Mount Pleasant voters did elect Linda Page mayor by a large margin Tuesday, and she’s not the first woman to win that job. Cheryll Woods-Flowers was the town’s mayor from 1992-2000.
But while our state’s Nikki Haley is one of our nation’s merely five women governors, females comprise just 12.9 percent of South Carolina’s General Assembly. Only Louisiana, at 11.8 percent, has a lower level of women state lawmakers. And though women now hold a record number of seats in Congress, they’re still less than 20 percent.
Nineteen days ago in this space, possible causes for that persisting gender gap were cited, including culture, economics, biology and “vestiges of a repressive patriarchy.”
An irate reader rejected that last notion, advancing this alternative theory:
Men are more likely to succeed in politics because they are more likely to develop the persuasive ways with words required to fool voters.
Then again, as Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Britain from 1979-90, put it, “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”
Still, as that shot across the male-ego bow showed, “The Iron Lady” had a heck of a way with words.
Another Thatcher gem: “There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty.”
And there can be no logical basis for prejudging individuals on sex, sexual orientation, race, religion or body shape.
Not he said — she said
Contrary to that reader’s rash assumption, lots of women, in and out of power, have their own impressive ways with words. For instance:
Not he said — she said
“We are already awesome. I just hope to take away any obstacle that businesses or average citizens face with our government.” (Page, delivering a triumphant assessment of her town Tuesday night.)
“I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every single day how blessed we were to live in this country. They loved the fact that only in America we could be as successful as we wanted to be and nothing would stand in our way.” (Haley, paying stirring tribute to our land of opportunity as she opened her 2012 speech at the Republican Convention in Charlotte.)
Other well-turned phrases from women in power beyond our state and time:
“As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.” (Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, R-Maine, the first woman elected to both chambers of Congress, in 1950’s “Declaration of Conscience” speech.)
“I praise loudly. I blame softly.” (Catherine the Great, Prussian-born empress of Russia from 1762-96.)
“We need trust among allies and partners. Such trust now has to be built anew.” (Angela Merkel, East German-born chancellor of Germany on Oct. 25, decrying U.S. eavesdropping on her phone calls.)
“Don’t be humble — you’re not that great.” (Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel from 1969-74.)
Sure, some powerful women, just like powerful men, occasionally blunder into poor wording, including:
“It may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand, ‘Sit down and shut up,’ but that’s the worthless, easy path. That’s a quitter’s way out.” (Sarah Palin, announcing her resignation as Alaska governor in 2009 with nearly a year and half left in her first and only term.)
“We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” (then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, making a notoriously dubious 2010 pitch for the unaffordable Affordable Care Act.)
“You clearly — whatever. Yes, he is the president, he is responsible for government programs.” (U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas, finally conceding the obvious to Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., during a House hearing last week.)
But to quote a former secretary of state at a Senate hearing early this year:
“What difference at this point does it make?”
Back to Thatcher’s indisputable maxim on government’s proper — and practical — limits: “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.”
And columns always run out of room — often mercifully.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.