What Does Christine O’Donnel Mean for Feminism?

First off, in all seriousness, I’d like to congratulate O’Donnel for making it this far in politics. It’s definitely not an easy game, particularly for women. Politics is still, unfortunately, largely a man’s world. Women who break through deserve credit, and that should be given to O’Donnel.

According to The White House Project’s 2009 Benchmarks Report, Women make up only 17% of the U.S. House and the Senate, only 23.6% of State Executive Officials, hold only 24.3% of seats in State Legislatures, and there are only 6 female governors – and that’s just the start of the shocking statistics. Usually, I can say that I wholeheartedly support any woman running for any political position around the country, regardless of whether or not I believe 110% in her politics. Just because I wouldn’t necessarily vote for her doesn’t mean I don’t believe in her right to be treated with respect and fairness by the mainstream media and to be given a fair shot. A woman running for office may not win, but she may inspire a young woman to.

But I’m not sure how much of a positive influence and backup point Christine O’Donnel is going to be for feminism.

So many say to me, “But Becka, isn’t ANY woman in politics a step in the right direction?” This is 100% true – any woman in politics is, generally speaking, a step in the right direction.

And then people like O’Donnel come along. She has lied on numerous accounts about her education – first in her 2006 Campaign for Senate, where she said she graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1993, when in reality she did not receive a degree until 2010, when she finally completed a required course. She also said she studied at Oxford University in England, when in reality she took a course through the Phoenix Institute that rented a space at Oxford. O’Donnel is unfailingly anti-woman – she continuously speaks out against abortion and for abstinence-only education, and has lobbied to Congress on behalf of numerous groups attempting to apply biblical scripture and ideals to U.S. Law and important issues.

Last week, Gloria Steinem came to my school (American University) to talk about her battle with Breast Cancer as part of the “Breastival”, a festival Women’s Initiative holds every year to raise awareness about Breast Cancer. Of course, the conversation moved to feminism and women’s rights/equality as a whole. At the end of her speech and the Q&A session, I went up to her privately and briefly told her my issue with the need for women in politics but how to deal with women trying to enter politics taking stances that are decidedly anti-women – such as O’Donnel. Gloria didn’t even pause to think about it before she said, “I oppose them. I think they should be treated fairly by the media, I think they deserve the right to run for office, but I reserve the right not to vote for them.” I nodded and smiled and shook her hand and thanked her again for coming to speak with us and (OF COURSE, come on, this is me) got a photo with her. As I left, I thought about how genius her answer was, but something was still irking me - My brain hadn’t entirely settled on the issue.

As a feminist, I firmly believe in more women in politics. But I also am pro-choice, believing that women deserve the choice over their own bodies. I am pro-sex education, believing that the only way to prevent pregnant women with unwanted pregnancies from having to make that choice of abortion is real sexual education, not abstinence-only, which has repeatedly proven to be unsuccessful. Personally, I believe that O’Donnel could be a step backwards for feminists and female politicians everywhere – but some days, I waver on that very thought.

I’ve learned to accept that not everyone has the same outlook on life as I do, and that religious values stop some short from feeling the same way I do. But I struggle with the idea that, although all women in politics should be role models for young girls, what happens when those women are extremely vocal about their desire to strip women of some of their rights? Are they still feminist role models? I still want more women in office, but isn’t it hypocritical of me to only want certain women? Or is it just politics as usual?

What do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? Leave it below!

Becka also writes for her own blog, Becka Tells All.

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Becka W
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