the 14 women

I was at my local Girl Scout headquarters a few days ago, going in to buy some stuff and chatting with some ladies, and one of them offered me a free dvd (my personal philosophy is “if it’s free, it’s for me”, so I took it) they had a pile of them.

It’s a movie called 14 Women, and as the blurb states: “When the historic 109th Congress convened, the number of women in the Senate increased to an unprecedented 14. Now, their struggle to balance family and politics is chronicled in this heartwarming look at the most powerful women in America. A story of perseverance and poise, 14 Women will inspire and uplift audiences of all ages!”

Looked promising, and though my troop is young, I thought maybe I could share it with them. So I watched it, and I admit I cried a little. It was just sad, and difficult. The women were great. Strong, competent, smart. they were grateful for their opportunities, they felt lucky to be alive during a time when women have the chance to serve in government, they thanked the women who paved the way for them.

But as the questions about how they “juggle home and work” were asked and answered, I got pissed off. I kept thinking how strange it was, how unfair. Where are the documentaries about married male senators? Why does no one wonder how they “do it all”? Why are we not seeing interviews with their children, asking their kids and spouses “What’s it like to have a dad who’s always gone?” or “How does it feel to care for the children while your husband goes to work?” Just the fact that this video exists is kind of a slap in the face to women. An affirmation of how unusual it is to see a female in government.

Why are women expected to do two jobs? It’s a problem I have, and I know a lot of women do, too. I made a decision to stay home with my kids, and I did that because I wanted to. But also because I just didn’t really make enough money to justify the cost of child care. And when I (with my husband) made this decision, my extended family acted like I was being lazy. Like I was taking the easy way out.

Then I started working, just a little, and suddenly I wasn’t doing enough. The laundry was piling up, the floor wasn’t vacuumed, the kids were with babysitters: I was shirking my duties. Meanwhile my husband (who I love, not hating here) is only expected to go to work and come home. Any housework or childcare he does makes him look like a hero. He gives a kid a bath and suddenly he’s a “great dad”. Somehow, I am expected to do two jobs. And even when I do, I’m still not a “great mom”, I’m just meeting the minimum requirement.

I honestly don’t think enough about politics, and social injustice. I just get so upset, and feel so powerless, and I know it’s the wrong thing to do but I end up ignoring the problems. I should try to get better about it. But it seems every time I turn around there’s some shitty interview, or some new law limiting abortion, or a rape case where the victim gets blamed for being drunk. Sexist clothing and misogynistic promotional materials are somehow acceptable. The Equal Rights Amendment my mother and her friends fought for was never ratified.

I just can’t. I’m not smart enough and I’m not strong enough.

Well, we’re up to 20 women in the Senate now, so I guess that’s good. Progress. Our representation hovers around 20% on all fronts: 98/535 in congress (18.3%) and 78/435 in the house (17.9%). it still seems shitty odds, though, for 50% of the population. And at this time when government is so totally screwed up I can’t help but see this as yet another way in which our government does not truly represent it’s people.

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