Benita: Welcome to feminist utopia, where women and men are equally represented in political office. In reality, for every woman in political office in the United States, there are three men. Research shows that women make government more transparent, inclusive and accessible. We bring different priorities and experiences to public life, including perspectives that have largely been absent in public policy making. Bottom line, women change the way government works and our voices are needed around the country.

Debby: 2016 was a tremendous shock for many women, especially women such as myself of a certain socio economic class. For white women it was a realization that white privilege is only going to take you so far. Basically, we learned that our brothers our husbands or fathers or friends would vote for a man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy. And it was a tremendous shock. It was even more of a shock when we found our fellow women voting for them. And the response afterwards was absolutely tremendous. Benita and I were together the night of the election and with several other friends in Houston and we were just sitting around literally staring at one another with our jaws open wondering how this could have happened.

Benita:I remember well, we left early, and I went to bed with this sincere belief that there was going to be a miracle happening overnight and this was all good. I was going to wake up in the morning and Hillary would be president. So it wasn’t only a shock on election night, it was a shock the next day due to find out oh my god, it wasn’t a nightmare. It was really true.

Debby: It was really true. And I remember a friend of ours sitting with me trying to figure out how it can be pulled out. Somehow. Once it was clear Hillary had lost Pennsylvania and Ohio, the math didn’t work anymore. It was beyond shocking to me at that moment and then I went to bed depressed. And then I got up and I saw Trump’s acceptance speech on CNN and I felt crushed.. terrified for my friends. And then I get really angry at a bunch of other Americans.

Benita: Well, my sister was planning on voting for Hillary until that last round of emails, and that controversy came up again. And that was the last straw for her. And that was a whole interference from Russia. We don’t know what would have happened if there wasn’t that interference. But I know, even myself, when I heard the first rumblings of Russia, I thought it wasn’t true and that it was the Democratic Party placing blame because she lost. But now here we are. And we still are unraveling the deep ties between Trump and Russia.

Debby:  I am one of the first people to say I don’t think Hillary ran a fantastic campaign, she ran a 1996 campaign. unfortunately, it was 2016. But in the Russian interference I don’t think we’re ever going to learn about and like you. I was like, oh, Russia really couldn’t influence us. And that was American exceptionalism on my behalf thinking we were so special and so free and so perfect. When we’ve done this in dozens of other countries, why would we think it couldn’t happen here?

Benita: Well, now we know it can happen here and a whole lot of other awful things that we didn’t think would happen here are happening  but if there’s any silver lining, it has been the revitalization of the Democratic Party and the grass roots movement of women getting more involved in politics, we saw that in spades at the most recent midterm,

Debby: And the Women’s March was an immediate response to that. And I think that initiative has been carried on not just within feminist movements or democratic spaces. But you see that with BLM still actually looking for solutions. And like you said, the grassroots stuff, even in Seattle, where I live now, people are paying attention to elections far more closely in a way that they simply weren’t before. And I think you have some interesting numbers on what actually happened in the recent midterms.

Benita: There were a record number of women elected in Congress and 2018 and overall, elected to both houses, 34 were new. There was a previous record in 1992 set were 28 non-incumbent women were victorious but 2018 showed 34 and the female representation on Capitol Hill increased to 23% from 20%. They’re not just at the national level, but on the state level and down ballots. I know here in Harris County, record number of women, especially in judicial races, won seats, so yay,

Debby: well, I’m especially pleased about Diane Troutman getting the Harris County Clerk position, I think getting women into these positions where they can actually manage how elections are run. You talked previously about how women getting into office changes things. And I think this is going to be a tremendous change in terms of making sure elections are more fair. And I think we also saw that in mid term said a lot of places elections are not fair. They are not equal there. There’s not that equal opportunity to vote, or anything like that. And so I’m especially pleased that that it was 19 female judges

Benita: Right

Debby: In Harris County

Benita: Yeah, can you say judicial review and reform?

Debby: It’s interesting. This is not the first time it’s happened. I was there for the wave in 92. That came after the Anita Hill hearings. I shouldn’t say that Anita Hill was not the one on trial. She was not supposed to be the one on trial. It was supposed to be Clarence Thomas’s hearings, as he was going through the nomination process for his seat on the Supreme Court. I was in college at the time. And I remember very clearly actually watching these hearings. This woman, Anita Hill is a very accomplished legal mind. And she worked with Clarence Thomas and he said and did inappropriate things. And I remember ,as a young 20 something, listening to the hearings and thinking, “well, that really isn’t so bad.” Thankfully, a lot of other women were a lot smarter than 20 something me that was the first Year of the Woman and that was a huge push into Congress after those Clarence Thomas hearings. What happened unfortunately, though, is that wave lost momentum.  And there was some backlash or we could talk about that more later. I know Benita and I’ve talked about what we thought and what we did during that time. And I’m kind of shocked now at how I felt about it then.

Benita: Yeah, I’m always so I think self absorbed at that time. It was not even something that I paid close attention to, which is embarrassing to me now. But I had a young child, my daughter was just over 1 I was single mom and going to college and looking back, I guess I can give myself a little bit of a pass because I had a lot going on other than paying attention to politics, but I vaguely remember people wearing “I believe her” buttons and stuff like that, but I really didn’t follow it.

Debby: Yeah, I almost think it’s better that you didn’t follow it. I followed it and was a member of the feminist union and all these things. And when Anita Hill came to my university to speak about it, I think, after the hearings was when I really started to more deeply understand what was really wrong with what she said ..with what would happen to her that with what she had said …that she didn’t solicit this attention and that the irony of all this is that they were working in the EEOC, which is about equal opportunities and employment. So this happened when they work together at a place based on a quality Frankly, I think Anita Hill paid a far bigger price

Benita:  Definitely

Debby: than anything remotely what Clarence Thomas has ever had to deal with or put up with. And you still see it now with Kavanaugh are people talking about “Kavanaugh’s life’s been ruined” and I’d like my life to be ruined so badly that I end up on the Supreme Court

Benita: And Christine Blassie Ford her life has been ruined. How many times has she had to move? How many people are still threatening her? When will she be able to go to the grocery store? for crying out loud, let alone go to work and have a normal semblance of a life.

Debby: Exactly. And it’s interesting to me that just is there was a wave in 92. There’s been a wave clearly now with these Midterms. But what happened after the 92 ways is there is a little bit of a backlash, women actually lost some ground for a while there. I I’m a little concerned… I’m not going to borrow trouble we have enough to survive right now. But what was more interesting when we were doing the research on this was how having women in office changes what the priorities of a government can be. But our hope is that these changes will start happening in our government sooner rather than later. They have been happening in other governments and there are ways that they’re ensuring that women have space at the table in other countries and I think most recently, Justin Trudeau When asked why half of his cabinet was made up of women was surprised that someone even asked him the question because, of course 50% of the citizens of Canada roughly are female. Right? Why wouldn’t you have representation on the cabinet that shows that demographic? And so other countries are getting into that more. I think Benita has some more information about that.

Benita: I actually was kind of surprised at how many countries have a quota system to ensure equal representation or at least additional representation. Some countries reserved seats solely for women. And some countries ensure that parties put forth candidates, a certain percentage of female candidates, that they have to do. So how they get to those quote varies. Quite a few, at least over 65 countries, now already have quotas. People have studied the government before the quota went into place and after and what they find is health spending increases dramatically when women are more represented in government. It goes up 10%

Debby: Wow

Benita: …of total government expenditures in the budget years before quarters to 13% in budget years afterward. And they also studied education and military spending and it shows that military spending goes down.

Debby: Yes!

Benita:  but there wasn’t really any change seen in education spending

Debby: really?

Benita: So I thought that was interesting too.  So the biggest change is in health. And if that could happen in the United States with the newly elected representatives, that would be amazing because our health system is in shambles.

Debby: Shambles is such a nice way to say dumpster fire. Two things that I find very interesting about that there are two separate feminist issues involved in that. I’m going to start with the military spending. I think that part of it is how women have to portray themselves within politics. Hillary Clinton was a huge hawk far more than many men in the party. And I’ve always wondered if part of that was an attempt to show herself to be tough and strong, not willing to take anybody’s crap, “look at me, I’m going to go after BinLaden” and “I’m going to bomb this country and that country” and stuff. And she did that a lot when she was Secretary of State and you find even Nancy Pelosi isn’t even pushing back against these increases in military spending that have been pushed through year after year after year within Congress. I wonder how much of that is because even women in power are concerned about trying to buck the patriarchy a little too much. And health care is my my main question is why don’t men care about their own health?

Benita:  And why don’t men care about the health of their wives and their mothers of their children and the whole reproductive issue is just really upsetting now and we’re moving backwards.

Debby:  We’ve been moving backwards for several years, it’s just picked up speed. We’ve really reached a downhill portion of this slide. And with healthcare, I find it telling that maternal death rates in places like Texas are higher. If I had to deliver a baby in Texas or in Cuba, and I’ve been to Cuba, they don’t have toilet seats in Cuba, but I would be more likely to survive giving birth to another human being in Cuba than in Texas.

Benita: And you’re privileged white woman. If you are a person of color, your chances of having complications and a successful birth or even lower in Texas.

Debby: The maternal death rate for black women in Texas is shameful. It is it is absolutely shameful they’re being sent home with huge problems. And then when they try to go back to the hospital with their complications, they’re dismissed. And so, but they’ve noticed, interestingly enough, this kind of a sidebar will get back to talking about women in politics, is that it doesn’t matter about economic status for black women in Texas nearly as much.   That black affluent women are more likely to die than poor white women in Texas. I don’t mean to talk trash about Texas all the time, as long as we’re talking about health care.

Benita: Yeah, there’s a lot to talk about there especially we have the most uninsured children in Texas as well. We started to get better in insuring our kids but we’ve taken a huge step backwards in the last couple of years.

Debby: Well, and that’s something that is interesting to me because part of the reason we left Texas is because one of our children is going to need assistance as an adult and in Texas, the waitlist was long because there aren’t enough women in the State Senate, in my opinion. And it’s interesting how the state of Texas did a lot to try and make it so that they wouldn’t have to insure Ben.

Benita: Right

Debby: Women and improving access to health care…I’m not surprised that women are more interested in that because frankly, women are the ones more often short changed by substandard health care than men.

Benita: Exactly. There’s a lot of parents of young children and even some single mothers that are going to Congress this year. So they’re already changing the face of Washington and and having to make the institution more accessible and more accommodating.

Debby: and shining light on it.  Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, I apologize for butchering her name. But she did a post basically explaining that when she was a bartender, her insurance costs twice as much as it does when she’s making $175,000 a year as a congressperson in DC. And maybe that is the nicest thing to have happen to people that are working at a much lower wage, why should they have to pay more than Congress? And I think that a lot of these women like Lizzie Fletcher, Alexandria, all the all these people are going to shine some light on these disparities.  And again, I’m going to hold Nancy Pelosi feet to the fire on this one….that I expect her in her role as likely leader of the house to support women moving forward within Congress and doing the work that needs to be done. And not being so scared of the patriarchy, which I think kind of leads us into our action stuff. What can we do because I ain’t  running for office.

Benita: No, I’m not running. I am really concerned that we are going to expect too much of our newly elected Congress.

Debby: Yeah.

Benita: And we need to temper our expectations of it. There’s a steep learning curve when you begin in public office, and hopefully we can get things done. But I’m just kind of wanting to temper expectations and try and give the women the support that they need from us as their constituents to still stay involved and still support them, even though you know, they technically won, they still need a lot of help and support.

Debby: They do. And that’s going back to Nancy Pelosi, whose been there since dinosaurs roamed the earth. I think she can offer a lot of help to them, too. And I found that what happened after the previous wave was that the women either became assimilated into the system, or they got disgusted and left or were voted out. And I hope that doesn’t happen. I’m not expecting them to pass Medicare for all this session, I’m not hoping for anything like that. I’d settle for subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns.

Benita: Really?

Debby: I’d be okay with that.

Benita:That’s a pretty low bar.

Debby: I know. But if I have a low bar, I won’t be disappointed. So what do we do to help women that want to run for office unlike us, there are many organizations out there that are bipartisan or refuse to take a position and we aren’t going to highlight those because I have a really hard time with the idea that a republican woman is better when she thinks that we need to gas people at the border. And do all those things like take away the right to choose and stufff.

Benita: Yeah. The one that I’m most familiar with this Emily’s list and they’ve been around since 2001. They have candidate trainings, support continuing after you run and get elected, and it’s it’s just an amazing network of women. And I know that they have financially support candidates as well.

Debby: And I think they’ve been around like you said since 2001. I know I’ve donated money they used to call it check bundling. I don’t know if they do that anymore, you would write a check to Emily’s list, and they would literally tied together a bundle of checks and hand them out to candidates. Um, but I find it really interesting now that there are organizations like Emerge America, which is training women on how to run for office, and it’s something I never thought of until after 2016 was that men often have the support system that recruits them and encourages them. And the natural bias I shouldn’t say natural, inherent bias against women is that they aren’t recruited as often. Wallace did a study on that, which showed that it was very difficult for women to get over their own internal barriers. And then there were the external ones. And they actually train women on how to run up and down the ticket. It isn’t just federal. They have won over 839 state and local races. And I haven’t checked but they had over 20 running for congress in the recent midterms. And I should go check on those numbers to see how successful they were. And those are usually women that are older and more established and stuff. Rise to Run was good.

Benita: Yeah, Rise to Run is more focused on younger high school girls and college age women to get involved in the political process and to run for office. And I think that’s really important to I mean, as women, a lot of times we don’t even consider running or there’s the thing like we think we have to be super or overqualified, and that’s not always the case. And when you have the support of Emerge America or Emily’s List that just goes a long way to making it easier to have that support.

Debby: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I would never think of myself as qualified for office. But Donald Trump changed all that. Like if he could be president so can I

Benita: Exactly.

Debby: I can read a book. I could do things and I could put on spray tan. But it’s interesting that the natural, shouldn’t say natural, inherent message and in our society is so thoroughly conditioned to women to think that “Oh, it’s I’m not smart enough.” or “I’m not popular enough.” “ I’m not enough.”

Benita: Right.

Debby:  And I love that we’re getting women that are younger before really sinks in… before they’ve had the boss tell them “I like you but you’re going to get married and leave” or before any of this happens to them…..encouraging them and giving them the confidence to go out run hence we have the youngest female congressman ever, Congress person ever

Benita: 29

Debby: Yes

Benita: I could be her mom. That’s kinda scary.

Debby:  Well, I guess I could

Benita: There’s a there is a whole other episode though that we will have to do in the future about women who do stick their necks out and run and the misogyny and shit they have to put up with.

Debby: It’s awful. I’ve started doing the research on that. And yeah, it’s stunning and I have some specific stories about Seattle where you would think Seattle is this liberal paradise progressive awesome. Everybody loves one another… Kumbaya. Woo hoo. And it’s not.  It’s stunning to me how misogyny isn’t just a republican or right wing thing. It is pervasive like we said in episode zero  Lately, as always, feel free to check out our website we have a list of articles and stuff we found while researching this episode. And if you have anything you wish us to do a show on, please let us know at our website.

Benita: feministutopia.net and you can email us at info@feministutopia.net.

Debby: That’s it. Thank you so much.

Benita: Thank you