"Sisters are doing it for themselves!" That 1985 song, written by Annie Lennox and David Stewart of the Eurythmics and performed with Aretha Franklin and several of Tom Petty's "Heartbreakers," was labeled a feminist anthem, loved by many and hated by many, too. With recent political events, it's become a reality. But what does it mean for American men?
President Barack Obama recently nominated Janet Yellen to be Chair of the Federal Reserve. It hasn't received nearly as much attention as one might think, for several reasons. One of them is that most folks don't know how powerful this economic position is for what has amounted to a de facto national bank, whose interest rate setting sets the tone for the financial community.
The other is that Janet Yellen isn't exactly a household name, even if she is the first woman nominated to the position. But she's the current vice chair of the Federal Reserve. She's an economist (as is her husband). And she's not getting the job based on a quota. And she'll be confirmed by a Senate vote, not a quota.
We already have had a woman as the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. That's the most powerful legislative position in the United States, and the second most powerful political job in the USA. She got it by virtue of an election by her Democratic colleagues, not due to a quota. As for Republicans, Rep. Michelle Bachmann was the chair of the Tea Party Caucus, an important post for American conservatives, not just women. Again, it wasn't a quota thing.
And, if the election were held today, former New York Senator and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would win against any Republican (though New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives her a relatively close call). Once again, presidents are chosen by election, not quotas.
Now Christie isn't the only strong GOP candidate. Should she take the plunge, former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (now on the NCAA Football Playoff Committee) would be a viable contender for the presidency. And she wouldn't be picked based upon a quota system, either.
You must wonder why I keep mentioning the word "quota." That's because a number of other countries, who brag that they are more progressive than America, and provide more political opportunities for women, do so because well they have to. They passed quotas insisting that half or nearly half of all candidates have to be women.
That certainly sounds like a policy of equality that the Eurythmics would totally love. Yet even these countries have men who worked out a way to game the system, like a crafty SEC recruiter. A study of Spain's implementation of the law found that women were more likely to be thrown in hopeless races, just to have the "letter" of the law met, instead of the "spirit" of the darn thing.
You'll still see studies claiming America is "70th" or so among countries for women in politics. But few do it the way the U.S. does, by having elections where voters or large numbers of representatives vote to make the pick, not a quota bean counter or shady political party chair. And American men, who make up about half of the voters, are making that choice. That's because American men are tough enough to make that call, without have some silly quota law on the books.
John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; email@example.com.