With the constant deluge of political negativity, it’s important to remember some of the smaller victories. In January of this year, we broke the record for the number of women in the Senate — and, in this very same year, it could happen again. Minnesota Democrat Tina Smith, sworn in early this year, brought the number of women in the Senate up to 22, higher than it’s ever been before. Sure, it would take 50 women to actually have it be an equal split, but we’re making progress. And November’s midterm elections could push that number even higher — and break that record again.
Assuming that all the women hold their seats — although there are a few that will face difficult races — there are three women poised to join, which could theoretically push the number up to 25. The three women are Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee looking to defeat former Governor Phil Bredesen; Kelli Ward, a Republican running in Arizona; and Jacy Rosen, a Democrat in Nevada who currently is serving in the House of Representatives, but who is hoping to take Republican Dean Heller’s seat. So it’s time to start watching these three women, because they could be changing history—especially when it comes to women's rights, both positively and negatively.
Electing People, Not Genders
And there’s definitely some joy in that. When my home state of New Hampshire elected an all-female delegation in 2012 — and then did it again in 2016 with an all-female, all-Democrat delegation—I felt a swell of pride. Electing more women to public office is a sign of sexism eroding, however slowly it might be happening. It’s a sign that we can make decisions based on the people in front of us, rather than their genders. It shows that people trust women to lead them. But just because someone being elected is a woman, doesn't mean that they represent the views, needs, or wants of all women. In fact, some of the women elected might not be what you’d hope for at all.
But Don’t Assume It’s All Good News For Women
It’s not exactly breaking news that not all women hold the same political views — and, even on issues that affect millions of women, some female politicians hold surprisingly damaging opinions. Although Jacky Rosen is unapologetically pro-choice, the other two women tipped to join the Senate decidedly are not.
For example, Blackburn has come out repeatedly against Planned Parenthood and describes herself as 100 percent pro-life. In fact, an anti-Planned Parenthood add of hers was blocked on Twitter for using “inflammatory statements” against abortion. And she’s definitely not apologizing for it. "I'm a hardcore, card-carrying Tennessee conservative. I'm politically incorrect, and proud of it," Blackburn has said in one of her ads.
She has also long been an advocate against same-sex marriage, and released a statement after the Supreme Court ruled in its favor, saying: “Today's Supreme Court decision is a disappointment. I have always supported traditional marriage. Despite this decision, no one can overrule the truth about what marriage actually is—a sacred institution between a man and a woman. I have always believed marriage is between one man and one woman and I will continue to work to ensure our religious beliefs are protected and people of faith are not punished for their beliefs.” Although LGBT rights may not affect all women, many women will feel the sting. It’s so important to understand that, while electing more women to office is a step forward in one sense, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for women's rights. That’s down to the candidates themselves.
Similarly, Kelli Ward has taken a controversial stance on abortion. Although she previously seemed to take a softer tack on women’s health issues, she now describes herself as staunchly pro-life. And, in another issue that may not particularly affect women but many women feel strongly about, she is in full support of gun ownership. “There is no right more fundamental to the character and safety of our nation than the right to keep and bear arms,” her website reads. “Our Founding Fathers understood that fact, which is why our constitution ensures that it shall not be infringed.” It’s a view that many women will find controversial, especially with the number of violent shootings we’ve had in the early months of 2018 alone.
It’s heartening to see more women involved in politics. To see them running, to see them elected, to see them speaking passionately about their beliefs. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they share your beliefs. And, unfortunately, women being elected isn’t always good for women. But we can celebrate the step forward while also having a critical eye to the impact it can have. So watch these women, celebrate the inclusion that they represented, but keep your eye on the issues. Because those are what really matter to you.