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Will Women Ever Achieve Equality?

As a nation we are unable to recognize the obstacles and needs of half the country.

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The report by The White House Project, assessing women's level of involvement and progress throughout the public and private sectors, offered the example of the Supreme Court (before Elena Kagan became its newest justice):

  • One woman is newsworthy -– she’s a first.
  • Two is better –- but still an exception, not the rule.
  • Three out of nine -– one in three -– stops being unusual.

We are a long way from women holding at least a third of the seats in Congress. It's no wonder, then, that legislation to address the needs of women is still the exception rather than the rule. It's no wonder, then, that too often, Congress dismisses as unnecessary programs to help women and their families -- programs that exist in every other industrialized nation in the world.

The answer, though, is not only to elect more women. There are now, as there have always been, women who work against the best interests of other women. Sarah Palin’s Mama Grizzlies are merely the latest incarnation of the anti-women’s movement -- a movement to oppose real solutions for women, dressed up in a skirt and lipstick, as if to legitimize their efforts to block progress. Palin is really no different from Phyllis Schlafly, the woman who made a career out of telling women not to have careers, the woman who fought –- and continues to fight -– against equality for women.

More Sarah Palins and Phyllis Schlaflys and Mama Grizzlies are not the answer. Just as progressives work to elect more, better Democrats, so too do we need more, better women in politics, so that women are not just the exception, so that the obstacles women face are deemed significant enough to merit real solutions, so that the most basic needs of women cannot be dismissed as unnecessary just because men have no use for them.

Ninety years after that young Tennessee representative cast the deciding vote to enfranchise women, a battle was won. Women could, at long last, have a voice in the process of choosing their leaders. But the last 90 years have shown that it isn't enough. To create a nation that truly recognizes and values women and their contributions, women need to do more than just have a voice in the process of choosing leaders; they must have a voice in the process of leadership itself.

And that battle is far from over.

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