Femme Politique – After They’ve Seen Paree
Do you agree that Susan Collins (R-ME) is a “relic of the GOP of the 90’s” when it was “beneficial to have a few broads in the Senate”? That’s just part of the rhetorical flourish that my friend Deborah Long presents in her short essay on the changing political power of women in America, why it happened and how it is evolving. Enjoy the read.
AFTER THEY’VE SEEN PAREE – by Deborah Long
My big brother, who coined the phrase “riding the fence like a bucking bronco” asked me today what I thought of Susan Collins’s “Quisling Speech” during the Kavanaugh hearing. He even included a photo of Collins shaking Donald Trump’s tiny hand as he sat in imperial splendor at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. In the photo, she is wearing a bright red jacket – a Red Coat reminiscent of the Revolutionary War, enhancing the irony of our belief in her equanimity and underscoring his point. As a notorious feminist – and he a notorious tease – I considered declaring “Persiflage!” and gathering all my words together to return fire. Plus, I hoped he’d have to look up the word, persiflage.
And then I decided not to take the bait this time because Susan Collins is not symbolic of anything worth trying to figure out. She’s a relic of the GOP of the 90s – then, a retro party of business interests seeking to rebrand itself as the Robin Hood Party. The boys thought that it was beneficial to have a few broads in the Senate – to make the party appear more civilized, more moral, and less thuggish – less Gingrichy. Collins gets to display a bit of moral conscience because it’s understood among the boys in the cloakroom that her vote won’t matter for the big stuff. Thus, she rides the fence like a bucking bronco – with sophisticated political acumen.
But this story really isn’t about Susan Collins; it’s about economics. It’s hard to argue that anybody anywhere cedes power to others voluntarily. As I look back, the one signal event of my lifetime can be reduced to the word, education. Specifically, to the college education of American women among the daughters of WWII vets. It wasn’t a trickle; it was a tsunami. And yes, there weren’t jobs waiting for these women, and certainly there were enormous boulders placed in their paths by the men who benefited from the patriarchy that managed the distribution of power in all aspects of American life. But signal events have consequences, and the women who acquired a college education in the 60s are now the mothers and grandmothers of the new class of economically independent women of today.
At first, there were only the jobs that existed for our mothers. We were secretaries, nurses, faceless helpmates. But increasingly, women became lawyers and physicians like their dads, and economic independence was the blurry image that slowly came into focus generations later. Now, it’s ever more likely that a man’s paycheck will be signed by a woman, that he can be fired for insubordination by a woman. And soon a man can be denied a job and prosecuted for assaulting a woman – prosecuted by her sisters: her fellow lawyers, judges, and her elected politicians.
The display of the Kavanaugh hearing was painful to watch, but to those who have worked to roll those boulders out of the way, they know that the sneering Brett Kavanaugh must look like roadkill to the women who are about to step into power.
So, for every Susan Collins wearing a red coat as she cannily shakes the tiny hand of our thug-in-chief, there are hundreds and hundreds of women who will defeat Republican hacks across the country in November and in 2020. It’s because, by exercising the power to govern with more expertise and with the dignity that comes with decency, they will finally extirpate from our government the moral squalor that is this Republican Party.
Image from pixabay.com