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Women Rule?

We're Getting Closer

We may be in for another Year of the Woman. The last year to get that designation was 1992, which saw a great leap upward in the number of women elected to Congress, from 29 to 47 in the House and from 2 to 7 in the Senate. This followed the highly publicized revelations of Anita Hill during confirmation hearings on Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court that he had made numerous sexual overtures to her when he was her boss at the EEOC and the Department of Education.

On December 5, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) told the Fifth annual Woman Rule Summit that she saw the same energy and enthusiasm in women during the last year that she saw in 1992, and thought another Year might be coming. Sexual harassment by powerful men certainly attracted a lot more attention in 2017 than it did 25 years ago. There has been a shift in the presumption that the women were lying to a belief that the men are in denial.

The Women Rule Summit, organized by Politico, featured a lot of women and a few men talking about issues of importance to women in more than just politics. The Fifth Summit had panels on women in sports, as entrepreneurs, in federal law enforcement, as well as a lot on politics.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke on a panel about how to stop human trafficking. Last Spring he and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) jointly sponsored a bill to curtail the use of the financial system for trafficking. While they are polar opposites on most issues, they agreed that the government should look for ways to stop “this heinous crime.”

Cong. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said that in Congress, the system protects the harassers while describing the long process victims must go through if they want to complain*. She did think there has been a “new enlightenment” that all those accused should resign. That same day Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said he is retiring after numerous allegations by former female staffers of improper conduct. A few days earlier Speier had called him a predator.

The greater willingness of women to speak out about sexual harassment during 2017 appears to be one consequence of Trump’s bragging about grabbing women’s ‘pussies’ during the campaign. That was highlighted by the massive women’s march on January 21. Trump’s boasts angered women. The women’s march empowered them.

Early signs that female discontent will be expressed in the voting booth could be seen on November 7. In Virginia, the number of women in the House of Delegates increased by 50 percent and the gender gap in all races widened significantly. These electoral wins favor the Democrats. Since 1992, there has been a “party gap.” Democratic women are much more likely to run for office than Republican women and win when they do. When the Democrats win, women win. Republican women’s success in winning elections has stagnated in the last 25 years.

At the Fifth Summit Eliana Johnson, Politico’s political reporter, asked South Carolina state representative Phyllis Henderson, a Republican, why Republicans didn’t elect more women. She carefully avoided answering the question by referring to the difficulties of raising money. While that may have been true decades ago, data show that women candidates’ success in raising money today is no different than men’s. Yet, the “party gap” persists.

Politics apart, women have increased their presence in most fields, but not all. Speakers at a panel on law enforcement said that women’s presence in federal law enforcement has been frozen at 15 percent for decades. The worst agency in terms of female employment is the Border Patrol, with just five percent women. The best, in employment percentages, is the FBI with 20 percent women. Back in the day of J.Edgar Hoover, there weren’t any.

How To File a Complaint of Sexual Harassment: Correcting the Record With the OOC In recent weeks there have been many media reports about the process for employees in the legislative branch to file claims with the Congressional Office of Compliance (OOC) under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (CAA). Several of those reports contain incorrect information about that process. The questions and answers [in this post] address the most common misconceptions about the OOC; more detailed information is available here.

Jo Freeman is an American feminist, political scientist, writer and attorney. This article was originally published by SWW.

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