Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Recognizing the power of women opens up opportunities for a better society

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Originally published on on Fri, 05/02/2008 – 11:56am

One element of Hillary Clinton’s run for president of the United States is the country asking itself whether it was comfortable with having a woman be the leader of the country. However Sen. Clinton’s run may finish, she has done a great job at convincing Americans that a woman can be in charge.

Not that it should have been a struggle. Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Germany, and countless other countries have had women in charge without issue. We currently have a female Speaker of the House, countless U.S. representatives and senators, state governors and much, much more.

So in terms of women in power, we’ve come a long way (baby). But in other areas, we still find ourselves a little perplexed.

When the news came across that Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the “DC Madam,” had committed suicide, I felt a little sad for her. Yes, prostitution is illegal but it seemed like she was a target more for who her clients were than what they were doing. Palfrey had been sentenced to 55 years in prison, though she wasn’t expected to serve nearly that long.

One key point I picked up in the story was a reminder that she hired college-educated women for her organization. This isn’t the standard image of the prostitute, the single mother trying to make ends meet or the sexually abused woman or the drug-addicted woman getting money for her fix.

Women who fight for reproductive choice fight in great part because they don’t want the government to rule over what they can do with their bodies. Yet we have college-educated women being told they can’t exchange sex for money.

There is a contradiction there, but it has more to do with the perceptions of women and sex.

The women and sex contradiction doesn’t apply just to adults. The FLDS compound in El Dorado, Texas had 13-year-old pregnant girls, yet we seem to be much more upset about Miley Cyrus, a 15-year-old actress/singer posing with a bedsheet covering her front while her father was present.

And there are other contradictions: Palfrey was sentenced to 55 years in prison, while Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) isn’t even charged and while former Bushie deputy secretary of state Randal Tobias resigned after confirming he used the D.C. Madam’s service, he wasn’t charged either. (Tobias said no sex was involved and he only used her massage services.)

In our patriarchal society, we have pushed down the power of women. Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle put it extremely well this week talking about the ultimate female role model, the First Lady:

For in choosing to be and do almost nothing at all for all these years, Laura has also come to epitomize the compliant, unobtrusive woman, the worst kind of example for modern young women today. This is, of course, why conservative Republicans and fundie Christians love her. They call her “classy.” What they mean is: She knows her place, keeps her mouth shut, possesses exactly zero sexuality, speaks only when spoken to, lets the men do the “real” work, stays so far off in the background she might as well be wallpaper.

Over the last two generations, we have been trying to knock down barriers over what women can accomplish if given the opportunity. And when those barriers are knocked down, our society is better off.

Women and power doesn’t seem to be a problem, and that’s really good to hear. As for women, power, and sex, we’re still trying to figure that out. After all, Ashley Alexandra Dupré is now a celebrity, thanks to the Eliot Spitzer case, and she isn’t scorned for what we know she did.

In about the last 40 years, we have gone from classified ads segregated by gender to a woman being a serious contender for president of the United States. But in other areas, we have come a long way, but we still have much farther to go.


Written by democracysoup

May 2, 2008 at 11:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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