7 Badass Women Working In U.S. Government In 2017
It's no secret that women are terribly underrepresented in American politics, but the badass women working in the U.S. government today compensate for their lacking numbers with sheer coolness. I mean, in an ideal world, yes, we'd have both the numbers and the coolness, and hopefully we'll get there eventually, but, well... you know what I mean.
It's been about a century since Jeanette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress, and while women have made huge strides in government since then, things appeared to stall with the 2016 election. Aside from electing president a man with a well-documented and often-discussed lack of respect toward women, the actual number of women elected to Congress stayed about the same in the 2016 election. That would be fine if women made up half of Congress, but that's not the case. Just 104 women were elected, meaning 19 percent of lawmakers are women — in contrast, about half of Americans identify as ladies.
This lack of representation is disheartening, especially given the staunchly conservative bent of the Donald Trump's administration. But pessimism doesn't accomplish anything, unless you take my attempt back in November to take a four-year nap as an accomplishment. (I'm told it doesn't count.) Rather than moving to Canada or going off the grid until things chill out, celebrate the women working in government today — and work toward getting more there. Here are seven examples to start.
1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Look at that steely gaze. That's the expression of a woman who works out like a monster and, when asked how many women she thought should join her on the Supreme Court, replied, "Nine." Be still my fluttering heart.
First in her class at Cornell University, Ginsburg was the first female member of the Harvard Law Review and became the second woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice in 1993, when she was appointed to the position by Bill Clinton. More than two decades later, she's still chugging along as one of the nine most influential judges in the country. (Oh, and hey, it's her birthday today, too. Happy birthday, Notorious RBG!)
2. Rep. Barbara Lee
Representing California's 13th congressional district, Rep. Barbara Lee has made no secret of her distaste for Trump's administration. The progressive Democrat was one of the handful of congresswomen to walk out in support of the Day Without a Woman, and she sponsored a bill condemning the appointment of Steve Bannon to the National Security Council. She also focuses on healthcare and international affairs.
3. Rep. Nancy Pelosi
Long before she served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi was vocal in her support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage. In 2010, The Guardian made the case that she was the best Speaker in recent history, and in 2013, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Working with Barack Obama, she helped pass bills like the American Clean Energy and Security Act and repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Although the results of the 2016 election mean she now serves as the minority leader, she's still going strong in the political arena, most recently by calling for the removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from office.
4. Janet Yellen
In 2016, Forbes named Janet Yellen the sixth most powerful person in the world, and for good reason. The former Harvard professor replaced Ben Bernanke as Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve System in 2014, making her both the first Democratic nominee to run the Fed since 1979 and the first woman to ever hold the position. Given the influence the U.S. wields on the international economy, Yellen is incredibly powerful (and badass).
5. Sen. Elizabeth Warren
After becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college, Elizabeth Warren went on to serve as a law professor until she was asked to lead the National Bankruptcy Review Commission. In 2012, she was elected to the Senate and quickly emerged as a leader of the Democratic Party; these days, you can find her participating in protests and irritating conservatives with her financial policies.
6. Sonia Sotomayor
Although she hasn't been serving as a Supreme Court Justice as long as her colleague Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor is equally badass. Appointed by Obama in 2009, Sotomayor went from growing up in a housing project in the Bronx to becoming the first Justice of Hispanic heritage in the nation's history. In her time as a judge, she's proven unafraid to speak her mind or poke fun at her colleagues. (Exhibit A: Her 2014 disagreement with Chief Justice John Roberts regarding racial colorblindness.)
7. Tammy Duckworth
In addition to being the second Asian-American senator ever elected, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth is the first female senator to have seen combat. According to the Huffington Post, Duckworth was an Army pilot in the Iraq War; in 2004, she helped land a helicopter after it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Her injuries required both the amputation of both her legs, and she was later awarded the Purple Heart. Her badassery is self-evident, so she'll be a senator to watch in the future.
It's also worth noting that Duckworth is a member of one of the most ethnically diverse Congresses in history. Although the total number of women politicians remained stagnant, women of color were elected in historic numbers in 2016. Lisa Blunt Rochester is the first black Congresswoman from Delaware, Stephanie Murphy is the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, and Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina Senator — and that's just a few examples.
So while the current American political landscape might seem like it's been ripped straight from the pages of a dystopian novel, at least the women of Washington are out there getting stuff done.