Friday, January 05, 2007

Lady of the House

The election of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the US House of Representatives is great news for democracy in America (though conservatives will take awhile to realise that). It’s not because of the Democrats’ agenda, nor the fact the House has tilted back toward the centre. Instead, it’s simply that the white boys’ club has finally been closed. With a woman Speaker, it’s no longer impossible to imagine a woman—or a woman or man who’s not of European descent—leading the House or the Senate—or the country.

America’s democracy needed this shot in the arm, a dramatic break from the partisan politics of “divide and rule” promoted by the Republicans over the past 14 years. Change will likely take on a life of its own now, and progress may finally come.

But forgive me for not being too excited. Outside the US women have long held power. For example, Britain had a female Prime Minister (the reprehensible Margaret Thatcher) way back when Reagan was president. And, of course, there was Golda Meir in Israel and Indira Gandhi in India, whose two terms were at much the same times as both women.

In New Zealand we have our second female Prime Minister, Helen Clark. When our first female Prime Minister (Jenny Shipley) took power, the Leader of the Opposition (Clark) and head of the largest state agency were also women. Prime Minister Helen Clark has been in the role since 1999.

So, other parts of the world are a bit ahead of the
US when it comes to gender equality in politics. But you have to start somewhere, and this is as good as any.

Well done, Madame Speaker. Keep it up, America.

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