Bipartisan Women Start Election Year Sexism Watch

Apr 4, 2012
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Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is no moderate.

A bill she signed into law ensures that same-sex couples face serious barriers to adopting children, and she is a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act. A Texas-like bill that would defund Planned Parenthood in her state passed in the House and is working its way through Senate committees. Brewer, no friend to the organization, signed off on an end to tax credits for the nonprofit in 2011.

But when a recent bill would have allowed employers to drop contraception coverage, it was pulled from the state Senate amid Brewer’s concerns that women would have to disclose private information to employers. On March 28, even when the language was altered, the whole bill was defeated in the state Senate, although it has been approved for a re-vote.

It’s not to say that Brewer is an advocate for employers covering birth control; she will not say whether she would sign the changed bill, according to the Yuma Sun. But could her concern about women’s medical privacy bolster the argument that increasing the number of women in elected office–regardless of political affiliation–adds to a women-friendly zeitgeist?

It’s a question that’s hard to answer because so few women occupy high political office in general and in state government in particular.

The Political Parity Project, formed in 2009, is trying to change that. In January, the initiative announced its determination to double the number of women in Congress and governorships by 2022. That long-range effort is starting now with a media-awareness campaign called “Name It. Change It,” calling out media sexism from whichever political side–left or right–it might appear.

Swanee Hunt, who heads the Hunt Alternatives Fund in Cambridge, Mass., has pledged $750,000 annually for Political Parity for the next 10 years.

Political Parity functions as a meta-group among women’s organizations. It brings 51 major leaders of national women’s and feminist groups–heads of PACs, foundations and nonprofits” to mingle and strategize on a quarterly basis.

Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, president and CEO of the Women’s Campaign Fund in Washington, D.C., is on this leadership team. “Ten years gives us enough time with all of us focusing on that increase” to reach that goal, she said in an e-mail.

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