Sorry, Hillary Clinton & Carly Fiorina Aren't Ushering In A Post-Gender Utopia In Politics
Despite not winning any states in Tuesday night's primaries and being nowhere near winning the nomination without divine (read: bureaucratic) intervention — Ted Cruz announced Carly Fiorina as his running mate, should the stars align and the universe hate me enough for the Texas senator to clinch the GOP nomination. While it feels a whole lot like what the DNC calls "a desperate move from a desperate and dying campaign," it's bound to rouse the attention of folks who want to compare the now two prominent women in the race.
Now that we've seen women like Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and now Carly Fiorina enter the political main stage — and witnessed the inevitable sexist fallout from all sides — it's time to address the obvious: The mere presence of female politicians is not ushering in a golden age of gender equality. The work is far from over. While seeing the GOP establishment bringing women into the fold to rejuvenate a campaign might seem morbidly, bizarro-world refreshing — It feels less like it's inspired by the very real need to see more women in office and to represent women's interests and more-so like that cringe-worthy scene from Mean Girls: "We pick the the girl too."
In a way, Clinton's campaign did inspire her opponents to consider gender differently in this cycle — while it allowed Donald Trump to discover new (and old) ways to lace interviews with casual misogyny, it seems to have given Cruz some insight into how he would take on Clinton's potential-first-woman-president branding. Adding another woman like Fiorina (who also offers some of the less abrasive traits their voters like about Trump) could theoretically neutralize that ~revolutionary~ energy. However, it feels like a hollow gesture from an individual who believes having a smattering of women on his team (who are paid, for the most part, less than their male counterparts) negates a history of voting against women's interests.
Because women are people and they aren't a monolith, there certainly are women voters out there who might identify with Fiorina (whether it's her story or her politics) who are probably super stoked to see someone they can identify with getting some attention on the national stage. However, to say that a politician whose positions on reproductive justice, paid parental leave and a national minimum wage leave countless American women out in cold, is a victory for gender equality by any means would be a huge mistake.
Much like her new partner, Fiorina's right to the "pro-women" moniker is entirely dependent on the policies she supports (or doesn't support) and how they benefit (or harm) all women — working women, women of color, women who are mothers, women who are transgender or queer, women who are undocumented, etc. While there's talk about the symbolic value of seeing a woman in the White House, it's beyond obvious that symbolism — just showing up as a woman — is not enough. It's the commitment to the work and the policy that matters.