Have you heard about the swingles? I didn’t until a week or two ago at a wonderful lecture at the 92nd Street Y called Running in Heels: Where are the Women Candidates for 2012–and how can we get more of them? Swingles are the single women voters who are poised to make or break this election season. We know that women more often stray from party lines than men. We know that women are more likely to vote for Democrats. Forget the swing states, bring on the swingles.
Eager to learn from a powerful and knowledgeable group of women, I listened intently to graceful and witty moderator Chelsea Clinton and the panelists, who captured a wide swath of society engaged in this issue from the captain of a rogue PR mission to a woman brought into the limelight from Rush Limbaugh’s latest idiocy. And learn from them I did.
Much of the unity among the panelists came from encouraging women to run for office as a public service, as serving others is generally very appealing to women. Though Sandra Fluke voiced the dangers of using this framework, it was generally accepted. And so I thought to myself is this why more women don’t run?
Only Sandra Fluke brought up structural barriers to women running for office to the table. A woman who wasn’t even supposed to sit on the panel originally, as two months ago we wouldn’t have known her by name. And so I thought, if the players aren’t addressing structural barriers, who is?
One fact from the Rutgers Report that folks across the panel kept coming back to was how women need to be encouraged to run for office repeatedly. Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List followed this with a great anecdote of how she has mothers with young children who are contemplating running for office call Kristen Gillibrand or Debbie Wasserman Schultz to talk out the real life feasibility of governing and mothering. Now there’s a conversation I would like to a be a fly on the wall for. Maybe we need to take these conversations to a more public forum? If it can encourage one or two women to run, why couldn’t it encourage more?
But it was the declaration at the very end of the panel that really taught me something. The panelists agreed that it is the “peacemakers” who are to be celebrated. Those who compromise in politics are the ones that get things done. Now, I can understand the resident politician falling in line with this, but there was only one on the stage. Heads simply bobbled as “culture warriors” specifically working on issues like abortion were called out. This was brief at the very end, and the only time abortion was mentioned. It made my heart sink. One panelist went so far to say that women wanted to be “more than their ovaries.” Umm yes, we know! But they do have ovaries and should be able to do whatever they want with them, and actively need to defend that, thank you very much.
How can these prominent political players not see that compromise is important but not always the answer? Maybe they do but are afraid to talk about it? Is that why there are so few women in office? Maybe it’s that we’re not all compromisers. There are things one cannot compromise on, and those issues must be defended. How did we get stuck with Hyde again?
If you’re interested in Chelsea Clinton and Sandra Fluke girl crush material check out this great clip from the lecture as they discuss Rush Limbaugh as a common enemy. Want even more? You can watch the whole talk here.