Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pioneers! O Pioneers!

You'll probably recognize this poem from a jeans commercial from a few years back. I remember it from my AP English class in high school where I had a brilliant teacher who read it in a voice that I now assume is precisely what Walt Whitman sounded like. The Will Greer reading posted here is still amazing, and I couldn't convince my high school teacher to let me record his voice and post it on youtube.

With the recent inauguration and the 113th congress coming into session, I've been thinking a lot about this poem lately. Yes, we elected our first African American president in 2008, but just as importantly we re-elected him to prove it was not a fluke. The new congress also has a few remarkable instances that give hope.

O you daughters of the west!
O you young and elder daughters!
O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided,
In our ranks you move united,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
These lines encompass what I mean in a way blogging really can't. The new congress has some noteworthy gains for women, but also noteworthy gains in diversity that to this point have never taken place. There is hope in here for other pioneer women in the future. Let's marvel for a moment at the strides we've made before we resume the fight. We're more than 50% of the population and yet there aren't close to 50 female senators or 50% congresswomen in the house of representatives. A long way to go still, but it's good to enjoy the victories of diversity and equality along the way.

Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is the first openly lesbian senator elected.

Mazie Hirono of Hawaii is the first Buddhist senator elected and the first Asian woman elected to the senate.

Krysten Sinema of Arizona is the lone atheist in the house of representatives right now and is the only openly bisexual person ever elected to congress.

New Hampshire is the first state in the history of our country to have an entirely female congressional delegation. Both senators and both representatives as well as the governor of the state are all women now.

Tammy Duckworth of Illinois is the first Asian woman elected to congress in Illinois, the first disabled woman elected to the house of representatives, a decorated war veteran, and the first member of congress born in Thailand. She's still serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois National Guard despite having lost both her legs in the Iraq War.

Elizabeth Warren was elected as the first female senator Massachusetts, which is a good thing that's she's there now, but considering the state was one of the original 13 colonies, it took a little long in my opinion for them to elect their first female senator considering their state is technically older than our country.

Those were all remarkable accomplishments and shouldn't be diminished by how far we still have to go, but now I kind of have to throw some cold water on the celebration with some icky numbers and facts:
  1. The obvious one is, yes, we've elected an African American as president twice now, which is good, but we still haven't elected a woman once.
  2. While women comprise about 51% of the population of the country, we're only 20% of the senate and 16.8% of the house of representatives.
  3. There are only 6 states with female governors.
  4. More than half the states in this country have never elected a female senator. The elections in 2012 dropped it from 30 to 26. Of the 26 that still haven't, four of the states (Delaware, Iowa, Vermont, and Mississippi) have never elected a female representative either.
We need to celebrates the pioneer women listed, but we need more pioneer women to be inspired by them in the future.

1 comment:

Aurelia Blue said...

I agree 100%!!!!!!! You said it all, Sister.

The proudest day of my political life was stading between my two daughters at the polls in the '08 Primary(our machines are on a littl desk with blinders and they let your kids stand on either side if they are quiet) and punched in my vote for Hilary Clinton. I was very happy to cast my ballot for Barack Obama, as well, when the November '08 election rolled around. And thrilled to do it again this past year. But nothing compared to being a great-granddaughter of two woman born in a time that women didn't even have the vote in this country, standing there in that booth voting for the first woman to ever run for President. God bless to all these brave pioneers you mention. And many blessings to follow for many more to come!

And I think, personally, Walt Witman made AP English completely worth all the extra study and hard work. ;)