Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Grass Roots of a Woman's Campaign

My apologies for yesterday, my computer had decided that as it was summer it too could go on vacation. It seems to be working now, so I've got a few words of interest...

Some of the issues that we touch on in this Blog are recurrent, granted, in differing situations and climates, but, nonetheless, they just won't go away. This is one of them: Why must women learn how to 'play' politics?

An article on a Colorado News Archive chronicles the emergence of a political boot camp for women. The boot camp is labelled as an enabling forum for women where they learn how to campaign within their own communities. An interesting moment in the article is the observation by a young single mother that children and politics were not 'mutually exclusive.'

The 28-year-old wondered about how she could make the jump into politics — running for city council in Laramie — because the prime time for knocking on doors soliciting votes was family time.

She got her answer at a Denver political boot camp for women when Pam Anderson, clerk and recorder of suburban Jefferson County, explained how as a graduate student she canvassed neighborhoods with her two children in a little red wagon.

“Hearing they can come with me was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. I can make it work,” said Walsh, who expects her children to be riding bikes by the time she runs in 2008 or 2010.

It would be interesting to examine the reactions from those she canvassed upon the recognition of her 'support.' That is, whether or not the presence of the children had a negative effect on her ability to earn votes. Politics, as it is usually conducted, does not accomodate playing 'house' outside of the house of commons. This Boot camp is an attempt to subvert the structuring of politics which works against overburdended women from a grass roots perspective.

Women who have been elected said they thought their gender helped them.
Democratic State Rep. Morgan Carroll told attendees she thought women appeal to the “anti-status quo voters” who are upset about corruption. Lola Spradley, a Republican and the first woman to serve as Colorado’s House speaker, said women can appeal to voters because of a “lack of arrogance.”

While I think this camp is an important step in the right direction for women seeking to enter politics, since it encourages women to work together, I do think there are a number of misrecognitions contained within its aims as well. I think the camp could be broadened to include men as well. This way, not only is it dismantling gender opposition within politics, but it would be a fundamental recognition of the socio-economic forces which dis'able' women seeking office in the first: the burden of care, and the perception of women as an 'alternative' to men--not as a primary option. The crux of the problem lies here:

Before she sent her students on to classes on fundraising and dealing with the media, MacDonald, a former teacher, noted how female interns she worked with on the Ritter campaign were more reluctant to speak out than the males. She said she thought women sometimes keep quiet until they think they’ve mastered something — but she said that won’t work in the “boys club” of politics.

I congratulate these women for taking a courageous in the right direction, but, I still wonder why women's campaigns must always begin at such a level. That is, the grass roots approach at campaigning advocated by this camp is somewhat worrisome--must women always be obliged make a personal connection with their potential supporters? Does their "lack of arrogance" hinge on their duty to 'out canvass' their male counterparts? We at Antigone advocate that politics is personal, certainly, but why only at the Grass Roots level?

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