WMNST101 Final Project

The 2014 midterm election was a controversial election in many people’s eyes. The Republicans took control of Congress leaving the Democrats and President Obama powerless in the next two years.

Women made more strides toward equal representation in Congress, but not as much as they should have. Additionally, the election of some women to Congress, such as Republican House member, Joni Ernst of Iowa, while seeming to be a definite stride toward equality has only resulted in the election of women who do not believe in justice and feminism.

Women like these are what many feminists call, “Women not for women,” and unfortunately America has elected many of these women to Congress.

In The Oklahoman article, “Voters responded to message from Republican female candidates,” the author claims that these Republican women win more than Democrat, feminist women because they are “running quality candidates” like Mrs. Ernst. While in Jessica Valenti’s article from the well established newspaper, The Guardian, titled “2014 was an election for first for Republican women. But it wasn’t a win for women at all,” Valenti argues that being a woman doesn’t necessarily make “you pro-woman, your actions do” and that the election of a record setting amount of Republican women to Congress is not justice.

Instead, Valenti introduces the discussion of the difference between equal representation in politics and justice for the oppressed. Equal representation is a numerical value. For example, since 51% of the United States’ population is women there should be 51 women in the Senate out of 100 members. Justice is creating and passing laws for the benefit and out of respect for that 51% and all other groups.

And the election of women who are actively against reproductive justice issues, gay rights, and the like, are not creating justice in Congress. Perhaps the election of active feminists would bring about the change, laws, and rights that many like myself long to see in the United States.


 

In the article, “Voters responded to message from Republican female candidates,” from The Oklahoman, the author claims that “there’s clearly no serious voter resistance to electing an obviously qualified woman. But voters’ choices are primarily based on issues, not whether a candidate is male or female.” While at first, this argument seems fair and reasonable it suggests that conservative views on political issues are the only views that should be and are taken seriously. Additionally, yes, many Republican women were elected this year, such as Joni Ernst who became “the first woman to represent Iowa in the Senate” and Mia Love who “won a congressional seat in Utah, becoming the first black female Republican to serve in Congress.” But these women are not actively fighting for women’s rights and other feminist issues such as reproductive justice, in fact many of these women want to introduce “legislation that would have severely limited abortion rights” or think that “abortion providers should be punished” if a personhood bill is passed (Carroll).

The article from The Oklahoman also states that “fewer Republican women have run for office,” but fails to address why and the serious issues behind this statement. The glass ceiling in the GOP is ever present and while some members would argue against it, “no female Republicans candidates are seriously considered possible 2016 candidates” (Gibson). The room for women to grow and achieve high ranking positions in the Republican party is very little because many Republican voters perceive women as novelties in the party, focusing more on what record they break with their ethnicity than their actual policies. Mia Love, for example, has barely commented on any of her positions on major social issues such as same sex marriage or reproductive rights. Sure there was speculation to what she might say based off of her background, but no one actually knows her opinion. People don’t take these women seriously, yet The Oklahoman identifies the problem of gendered elections as solved because more Republican women were elected this year than last year.

Furthermore this article is continually problematic because it fails to address the blatant homophobia and exclusion of LGBT members in the GOP. According to the Washington Post, “there [are] four” Republicans in Congress out of 279 total members of the GOP in both Houses. And there has yet to be an out individual, whose coming out wasn’t surrounding by lies, cheating, or societal scandal, in the Republican party (Sullivan). Tell me, how are these problems of sexism, homophobia, and countless others solved as the Oklahoma Editorial Board suggests? And furthermore, why am I and countless other feminists concerned with the election of conservative, Republican women?


 

In Jessica Valenti’s article “2014 was an election of firsts for Republican women. But it wasn’t a ‘win’ for women at all,” published in the Guardian, Valenti confronts many conservatives’ confusion surrounding feminists disappointment with the recent election. As Valenti states, “your gender doesn’t make you pro-woman, your actions do” and the Republican party is “forcibly keeping rights from us.” For example, in the Republican National Committee’s Platform article, it is stated that Republicans “will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage” (Bob McDonnell). Elected republican women will not vote for what the majority of women want, such as reproductive rights, which is why “women aren’t applauding in solidarity with you this week.” Most conservative women are not concerned with feminist ideals, therefore the election of these first-Republican-woman-to-do-blank characters do nothing to strengthen the fight against sexism in the Republican party.

What Valenti fails to discuss in her article is the presence of gender stereotypes in elections and how that can sway voters who believe in the gender binary. Joni Ernst’s, the recently elected Iowan House member, biography deals with her marriage and her time as a mother before she even talks about her standpoints on the government and public policy (Ernst). This fulfillment of what is expected of her, according to gender stereotypes, is not only pleasing for many people, because it helps to put her in a box that most have accepted, but it also supports “the visceral belief that stereotypes matter to the success or failure of women candidates” (Dolan). Many still want women to fit into nice, neat boxes that really don’t exist outside of the gender binary system, but these women, who somehow manage to be both feminine enough to be a believable woman, yet masculine enough to hold a position of power, are elected and often only perpetuate the binary instead of getting rid of it.

The idea that sexism can be defeated with equal (or growing to become equal) representation is widely accepted and as more and more women and people of color are elected to Congress as Republicans, this is what Republicans support in order to insinuate that there are not great systems of oppression working inside of Congress. But justice is what we need and as Valenti claims, “equal representation is important, but it doesn’t equal justice.” If equal representation brought about all the social change and reform needed to protect and grant women rights, then wouldn’t we just need 50 women in the Senate and 218 women in the House of Representatives? In a perfect world this equal representation would bring everything feminists want and more. But it’s honestly hard to know which one would be best for our imperfect system, an equal representation of women, people of color, LGBT people or justice served for those people and the freedom granted to them to do what they want with their lives in our country. But with the election of gender binary perpetuating and enforcing women, progress, acceptance, and justice can’t be brought to those who deserve it.

Sure it’d be great and in an ideal world these two ideas of equal representation and justice would go hand in hand, but how do we bring this about in the United States now?


With the recent 2014 Midterm election, women and minorities made undeniable strides toward equal representation in Congress, but not as much as they should have. But even now around “89 percent” of the Republican party are white men whose conservative social policies limit and restrict the rights of women and people of color alike (Mimms). Even the women who did break records and become elected in states that may never have elected a woman to their position, while seeming to be a stride toward equality in Congress, has only resulted in the election of women who do not believe in granting justice to the minorities they represent and who do not believe in feminist ideals of equality despite race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.

In order to bring justice for the oppressed is not through equal representation of women in Congress per say, but by giving out justice no matter what. Justice and equal representation would be synonymous in a perfect world, but until that day comes around, feminists do not want women who aren’t for women being elected. Feminists want other powerful feminists to have their voices heard in Congress, in legislature, wherever.

The only way that feminists can obtain this goal of powerful feminists fighting for justices, like same sex marriage legalization and reproductive rights, that we want is to vote. Voting in the upcoming 2016 election for feminist candidates will help to bring these people to Congress. Collectively, we can make our voice heard in our government, isn’t that what democracy is for? The election of candidates, such as feminist women, people of color, LGBT people, etc, will undeniably bring Congress men and women to the stage with the oppressed and underrepresented at the forefront of their concerns and hopefully bring us closer to a government where equal representation and justice go hand in hand.


Bibliography

Board, Oklahoma Editorial. Voters responded to message from Republican female candidates. 9 November 2014. 29 November 2014 <http://newsok.com/voters-responded-to-message-from-republican-female-candidates/article/5364599&gt;.

Bob McDonnell, John Hoeven, and Marsha Blackburn. “We Believe in America.” Republican National Committee (2012): 20-21.

Carroll, Lauren. Braley, Ernst debate anti-abortion legislation impact . 30 September 2014. 1 December 2014 <http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/sep/30/joni-ernst/braley-ernst-debate-anti-abortion-legislation-impa/&gt;.

Dolan, Kathleen. “Gender Stereotypes, Candidate Evaluations, and Voting for Women Candidates: What Really Matters?” Western Political Science Association (2013): 96.

Ernst, Joni. About Joni. 2014. 9 December 2014 <http://www.joniforiowa.com/bio/&gt;.

Gibson, Ginger. Midterms 2014: For 2016, Can the Republicans Solve Their ‘Women Problem’? . 5 November 2014. 1 December 2014 <http://www.ibtimes.com/midterms-2104-2016-can-republicans-solve-their-women-problem-1719532&gt;.

Mimms, Dniel Newhauser and Sarah. “In a Republican Congress, Few Gavels for Women.” National Journal Daily (2014): 2.

Sullivan, Sean. Meet the four Republicans in Congress who support gay marriage. 2 April 2013. 1 December 2014 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/04/02/meet-the-four-congressional-republicans-who-support-gay-marriage/&gt;.

Valenti, Jessica. 2014 was an election of firsts for Republican women. But it wasn’t a ‘win’ for women at all. 6 November 2014. 29 November 2014 <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/06/2014-election-republican-women-record-numbers&gt;.

 

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  1. I completely agree with your post! It is logical and concise and very informative. It has presented me with a viewpoint and information that I didn’t understand before, and now that I see these things happening, I see even more injustices in the American legislative system. Our government is flawed, and it has such deep roots in conservative values. I agree and believe that the only way we can start seeing real change and make strides towards equality would be through equal representation from all of the oppressed and the minorities. Only then can the real issues in America finally be addressed because they are the true citizens of the United States. Escaping from oppression is literally why our country was founded and that should never be forgotten.

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