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Women Legislators

Women make up a minority in every legislative body throughout the United States. Politics has long been a man’s game. Despite the increasing opportunities for women, at every turn, some men just cannot seem to ignore the very existence of a woman’s role anywhere except inside the home. Some men, not all, just cannot help themselves. The contributions of women not displayed in the centerfold of a magazine, laying across the hood of a car or serving them dinner are not acknowledged or even noticed. An inexplicable blind spot that, unless they are called on it, they do not even realize they have. The most recent example and the impetus of this article were found in one of the most recognized political blogs in Georgia. An article highlighted in detail about the four men lawyer legislators leaving to spend time with their families. Honorable and interesting discussion, the only problem was there were five lawyer legislators leaving to spend time with their families. The only one not, the only women.

During the 2016 Georgia General Assembly session there was a slew of retirements for various reasons. The Peach Pundit article discussed the importance of having lawyers in the legislature because of their knowledge of the law in and out of the courtroom. The blog discussed the difficulty for lawyers to run their private practices while taking off for three full months during the legislative session and the effect on their income and cases. The well-written article also emphasized that each of the lawyers profiled had minor children, and leaving to spend more time at home was a primary reason for them leaving. An optimist would note how special it is to highlight a man’s role in child rearing, a true sign of a society not bound by old school thoughts on household roles. Unfortunately, the pessimist and feminist in me noticed more how even in the areas women traditionally got credit for, this woman was ignored.

Not typically the type to need to be in the spotlight, I must admit, I was offended. I read the article several times and went down the checklist to determine if there may be a reason that made me not relevant to this discussion. The article discussed lawyers, particularly those who ran their own practice. Check; I am a sole practitioner with a criminal practice who continued to appear in court, even during the legislative session despite my “legislative leave” which required judges to excuse me. The article discussed parenting. Once again, check; I have two beautiful, school aged children that were the primary reason I elected not to continue my service. I had to then dig a little deeper. Maybe because the blog author was a conservative!?! Nope, it was a bipartisan discussion as one of the three legislators was a Democrat. Maybe I hadn’t served as long as the others and the author was focused on people retiring after a lengthy service. Nope. The one Democrat was elected the same year as I. In fact, we are the same age, our districts border each other, and we passed the exact same number of bills each year we served together. Maybe he just did not know, despite the fact I gave a very controversial retirement speech that caught the attention of every political blogger in the State. After carefully reviewing what makes me different, there were only two things left. One, I was a woman and two, I was much better looking than the other retiring lawyer legislators.

How ironic is it that many women do not run is because of the time away from home and their family. Unless, like me, you live close to the Capitol, taking a full three months away from home is hard for any legislator, man or woman. Yet as a woman, I know traditionally women tend to handle the minute details of child rearing. It is hard to leave daddy in charge for three full months, which is why most women legislators are older women with grown or self-sufficient children. It is hard to leave daddy in charge because I imagine my daughter’s hair tangled with candy hidden in it despite dad’s attempt to make her presentable. Field trips without the extra five dollars in case they want to buy souvenirs. Not to mention the back to school “teacher’s goody bag” and Christmas present for the bus-driver. I’m blessed that my husband is very hands on. I couldn’t have spent the time I did in the legislature if he didn’t break with the “traditional male roles” displayed in my childhood home. Yet, at the end of the day, I am mommy and there are just some things mommies do that many daddies do not. As a result, women are a minority in all legislatures and of the ___ Georgia legislators, only four have young children.

I read an article about how men ignore women in leadership because the pitch of their voice is too high. I guess the pitch of my service was too high to be noticed. In the year of “I’m with her” and the breaking of glass ceilings, I do not feel the need to wait for a man to tell my story. But in reality, this is less about me and more of a wake-up call to men to take a notice. The sheer disregard men still have for the contributions and involvement of women in our society has no bounds. For that reason, women must insert themselves into the conversation. Insert themselves into the room. Make our voices and contributions heard on our own. And luckily we can do it all and still get the honor of being “mommy.”

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