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die Tageszeitung, Germany

A Hint of Pink

By Steffi Dobmeier

The Senate is only 20 percent female, and the ratio is even worse in the House of Representatives. And this in a nation where women make up 50.8 percent of the population.

Translated By Ron Argentati

3 January 2013

Edited by Rachel Smith

Germany - die Tageszeitung - Original Article (German)

New Hampshire is the first U.S. state with a totally female congressional delegation. Nevertheless, American politics remains as masculine as an all-boys boarding school.

Well, that's the way it goes in politics, especially in the U.S. To be sure, their first female secretary of state was Madeleine Albright back in 1997; then came the first female national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, who later also served as secretary of state — and finally Hillary Clinton.

Oh, yes: We shouldn't forget Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, the two tea party moms. But they don't really count, because neither of them made it into high political office. So that's it, then. American politics is otherwise as masculine as an all-boys boarding school that has a couple of female teachers. Or, more accurately, a couple of female secretaries. A lot of testosterone, but not many earrings. What a pity.

The question of how many women Obama will bring into his new administration is still open, but it probably won't be more than two. Meanwhile, the Senate is only 20 percent female, and the ratio is even worse in the House of Representatives. And this in a nation where women make up 50.8 percent of the population.

So it's quite appropriate that New Hampshire is raising the average by electing two women to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. That's in addition to the two they already elected to the Senate. That makes the New England state the most politically feminine state in the nation — the only one with completely female congressional representation in Washington, D.C.

The Barbie Doll Stamp

“Pink is the new power color in New Hampshire,” declared Ann McLane Kuster, one of the newly elected members of Congress. Why she and her colleagues so readily put the Barbie doll stamp on their election wasn't explained.

Now there can be a discussion about how important female leadership style is and how important it is in politics. How much every business, every political party and every corporate boardroom might benefit from female leadership. There would be more compassion, more compromise and more diplomacy, because women communicate in order to strengthen bonds. Men, on the other hand, do so to establish status and pecking orders.

You've probably heard the cliche often enough in any discussion of female leadership that women have softer natures, one of their many supposed differences compared to their male counterparts. Their professional competence is scarcely ever mentioned.

But, cliche or not: The four New Hampshire women will show the world otherwise. They will show that women can do more than just have a career and a profession. One hopes that will suffice, because it won't change much statistically; the international organization Inter-Parliamentary Union puts the United States 82nd globally when it comes to the proportion of women in government.

A few countries not especially known for their human rights records are far ahead of the U.S. – including Rwanda, Uganda and Serbia, as well as Sudan and Pakistan. Germany, by the way, is ranked 24th. One is reminded of Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian who as early as the mid-19th century praised the masculinity of American politics, calling it “impressive.”

That was a long time ago and yet not far off from the present.



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