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Are female pols good for women?

For about as long as women have been running for office, people who care about women's lot have wondered whether one at the top would improve life for the rest of us. And last week's skirmish in the New York City mayoral race was an object lesson.

The feminist bragging rights of Christine Quinn, the only female candidate in the New York race -- the frontrunner, potentially the first female and the first lesbian mayor of the biggest city in America -- were being questioned. Using her power as speaker of the city council, Quinn was blocking a sure-fire vote mandating paid sick days.

She faced a clear choice. While the bill was opposed by her key ally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, lack of sick days disproportionately affects low-wage female workers, who also tend to have more caregiving responsibilities -- and the coalition including the Working Families Party and union leaders made sure everyone knew it. Just as Quinn needed the support of people like Gloria Steinem and other high-profile feminists for her campaign, they were holding firm in demanding a vote on paid sick leave as a women's issue. And it all came at a time when people who might vote on feminist bona fides were arguing over a central question raised by Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Whether more female leaders would improve the lot of all women.

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