There are sound reasons why the polity would want both female and male legislators. Each brings different perspectives to the process, and all perspectives ought to be brought to the forefront, discussed, understood. Law needs to be considered, vetted, appreciated, from all points of view. Anything less will produce myopia, and result in more of the unintended consequences that plague society.
So Nevada, with 39.7% female legislators, “near the top” as it’s vaguely described, seems to be doing pretty well, right? Except it’s not just percentages or lady parts.
These are not the talking points of a ladies’ happy hour. They are among the State Senate and Assembly bills being considered in the Nevada Legislature. Not only were the bills designed solely with women in mind, they each were sponsored by a female lawmaker.
When Hillary Clinton took to the airwaves, she informed the nation that she would be the “women’s president.” That did not mean, however, there would be another president for the rest of America. If the best the women in the Nevada legislature can do is pump and dump issues that apply only to the benefit of their gender, then they’re not doing a very good job of it.
The state legislature is a testimony to what many who study gender inequity in politics theorize to be true: Increased gender representation directly translates into better consideration of women in the drafting of law and policy.
Hopefully, that’s true. But it’s hardly proven by the lede offered by Brittany Bronson, an English instructor at UNLV. It’s not to challenge the legislative contributions of Nevada’s female lawmakers, but Bronson’s sales pitch.
Even in Nevada, tone-deaf misogyny still echoes in the chamber. After a nurse testified to the calls she received from low-income women forced to choose between feminine hygiene products and food for their children, a male lawmaker asked if he could get his jockstrap tax free.
While the guy who made the jockstrap quip was a vulgar jerk, Bronson’s choice of anecdote to prove her point reflects the failure of her attempt at persuasive logic. It may well be the case that some poor women are forced to choose between tampons and food for their children. It would be similarly true that poor women are forced to choose between the gas needed to fuel their cars to get to work or food for their children. The list of choices in the allocation of scare resources with food for their children can go on for a very long time.
So should they all be free? Should they all be untaxed? They should, and there is a strong argument to be made that basic necessities shouldn’t be subject to state sales tax, regressive as it is, that makes the choice harder for women. And (this probably occurred to you already), men too. You remember men? They’re the fathers of the hungry children. They can be poor too. They can want to feed their children too. Go figure?
The point is that singling out tampons turns a real issue into a women’s issue, and that’s why Bronson used it. Tampons have become a rallying point in this political battle because it’s a personal hygiene item used exclusively by women. Or is it?
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is rolling out a new pilot program to provide free menstrual products in several of its campus bathrooms — including some men’s restrooms.
Ridiculous? Not exactly, but it requires an extension of the concept of men.
Asked why women’s hygiene products are needed inside men’s bathrooms, Wagner said: “Menstrual products will be available in all of the bathrooms of the Red Gym so that they are available to any student who might need them.”
It appears the products are needed in men’s bathrooms to benefit transgender males (biological women who identify as male).
Brown University was already there.
The college’s student body president Viet Nguyen told Newsweek that “pads and tampons are a necessity, not a luxury,” and that a group of about 20 students are fanning out across campus to fill all nonresidential bathrooms with free menstrual products.
“We wanted to set a tone of trans-inclusivity, and not forget that they’re an important part of the population”
The fact of biology gives rise to this dilemma. Much as the argument that gender is a social construct may hold sway on campus, the body just won’t abide. The argument that women have a need peculiar to their biological makeup, and there being no corresponding male hygiene necessity, is strong. Why should women have to pay for something they require because of their physiological needs? Men suffer no similar burden. Why should they not be entitled to it as a matter of right? Aside from tampon makers taking advantage of this for their own profit, it’s a very good question.
But the Nevada legislature deals with issues other than tampons. That women legislators raised the tampon problem is not merely fine, but a valuable contribution. This is a legitimate issue. But it’s not the only legitimate issue.
Studies also show that although female politicians have a wide range of positions, they often are more compassionate, better at working across the aisle and more willing to compromise, qualities intricately bound in successful policymaking.
An increased presence of women in elected offices will not only advance gender equity, it will subsequently help men, because women lawmakers are proving to be, across all the issues — women’s or not — more productive lawmakers.
Whether it helps anyone, male or female, to have “more productive lawmakers” in office is a separate and very debatable question. Whether lawmakers who are “more compassionate” and “more willing to compromise” is a good thing depends on the issue at hand. Compassion toward one group usually comes at the expense of another.
Toward whom are they compassionate, other than, obviously, women?
Compromise on an important issue such that it waters down efficacy to the point of uselessness isn’t necessarily a virtue. So let’s fund indigent defense, but only up to $12.37 per defendant? That’s what compromise can produce.
Legislators will be whomever the voters elect. While it well-serves the state to have legislators of all flavors, no district can be forced to vote by gender because of a shortage of estrogen in the capital. Or testosterone either, for that matter. But the argument in favor of it isn’t that women legislators will do good things for women. They’re legislators for all their constituents. They will not serve their male taxpayers well by handing them tampons.