By Senator Lena C. Taylor
I’d be less than honest, if I didn’t say that I don’t still feel the sting of the 2016 presidential election. It’s not so much the partisan gridlock, resulting control of the U.S. Supreme Court, or the unraveling of faith in our election system, that gets my goat. The issue runs much deeper and courses through the veins of this nation. Similar to the blood that’s needed to sustain our very being, women are an essential element to our very existence. Making up roughly 50% of the worlds population, women represent less than 10% of the world’s leaders. I think a passage from a 2016 Esquire magazine captures some of my frustration back in 2016. It went something like…
She was smart and careful, full of nine-point plans and ideas, and she was a woman. He was ignorant and reckless, full of vague promises and wild threats, and he was a man, a faux alpha-male appealing to various alpha-male wannabes. She never found a language in which she could plausibly engage him on that level, on the battleground he spent the primary process creating.
I was reminded of that 2016 pit in my stomach, with the recent announcement of the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Liz Truss. Following weeks of criticism from her adversaries and members of her own Conservative Party, she has been forced out of office after serving just 6 weeks. Again, it’s not about the politics of it all, but the outright hypocrisy of gender. You see, Truss’ predecessor was Boris Johnson. A scandal-laden leader, whose tenure was marked with one embarrassing headline after another, Johnson also resigned amid pressure from his party. However, it took three years.
Understanding the cultural, religious, ethnic, and even social customs that relegate women to background players, supporting cast members, or workhorses, I still find myself offended. We have moved the needle from being seen as pin-up girls, with tightly wound pin curls. Our intellect and abilities can hardly be denied. There is not a field of study, job, or sport that we women have not proven that they can excel. We are formidable opponents and we carry our weight. Yet, with the slight of a hand, we can be underpaid, undervalued, and just “under.”
Yet when I think of the women in my life, the women who marched and protested, sacrificed and died, in order that I might hold elected office, I am grateful. Every time I speak my mind freely, raise my fist in support of a cause, or take my seat at a male-dominated table, I am grateful. When I have cast a ballot or been the deciding vote on an issue or a cause, I am grateful. When I think about Harriet, Sojourner, Mary, Rosa, Ida, Fannie, Shirley, Ruth, Constance, Venus, Serena, Kamala, Mahsa, Winne, and more names than I can count, I am grateful. It is because of them; I know my worth. It is my prayer, that we get to the day, when all women are treated equitably and just.