This image is taken from a series of cartoons by James Thurber, entitled "The War Between Men and Women." It came to mind this morning in light of the recent controversy surrounding the #YesAllWomen hashtag, and the defensive counter-hashtag #NotAllMen.
Around Howard County we don't have much of an all-out war, but there are days when it feels as though women in public service, political races, and even blogging have to work twice as hard to be thought half as good. We have a bit of a Boys Club at work here: not ruthless, not mean-spirited, but careless and unseeing.
What do I mean? Take a look at this:
Tag or recount all present at an event
RT, Share, comment, and praise work by both men and women
Engage in online dialogue with both men and women
Respond to comments from both men and women
Support both male and female candidates
More likely to tag or recount men present
More likely to RT, share, comment, and praise work by men
More likely to engage in online dialogue with men
Respond more frequently to comments from men
Support and/or take more seriously male candidates
In short, there is a kind of benevolent marginalizing of women on the local scene.
Yes, I know. #NotAllMen in #hoco are like this. And yet, #YesAllWomen have experienced this treatment. One is rendered invisible. A woman might be thought of as good conversation, great to bounce around ideas with, and just the right person to host an at-home candidate event. But would that favor be returned?
I had a discussion recently with a woman running for office locally, and this issue came to the fore. We agreed that there were certain exceptional men who went against the grain on this. What made them different? Our conclusion was that these men were confident enough in themselves that they didn't fear equality with women.
That's really what it boils down to. Equality is empowerment: taking people seriously, allowing them to participate in the conversation, allowing them to be visible.
This is why I am so excited by Emerge Maryland, a group recruiting, training and supporting women for political service, and by women friends who are running, or blogging, or engaging in important local dialogue. It is also why I favor male candidates who show through their actions that women and equal and valuable.
It's never going to come down to a battle at the supermarket here in Howard County. It's far more subtle than that. It happens little by little, day after day. I look at my daughters and know I must do something to contribute to a better future.