By Katie Maher
In US history, there have been 1,917 male senators – and just 46 female senators. That’s the shocking title of a recently published Vox article, which explores the ways in which the US political system favors men.
The article presents a video by Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who describes the difficulties she faces as a woman in a predominately male field, and the problems that such a gendered unbalance creates for our government.
Early into her term in the Senate, Sen. Klobuchar was made to feel inferior to her male counterparts, and many challenged her place in the Capitol. Once, while attempting to get on a senator-only elevator at work, a fellow senator stopped her and said, “I’m sorry, this is for senators only.” Klobuchar knew exactly who this man was, and yet he couldn’t be bothered to recognize her and treat her as an equal.
The Senator’s story in the elevator points to the androcentric tradition of US politics. Centuries of solely men occupying political offices have inhibited us from recognizing change when it occurs, to the extent that a woman entering an elevator to do her job seems wrong or unnatural in some way. Women in office defy the conventional appearance of a person in politics, and they also differ from men in their manner of governing.
Klobuchar explains that female legislators are “better” than their male counterparts, “because they’re more focused on results and getting things done.” She continues, “having women at the table is incredibly important, not just for the numbers and for representing our country and equality, but also that they’re able to get things done in a unique way.” The need for more female legislators isn’t just about gender equality; it’s about a difference in perspective and recognizing the unfairness in the problems of others.
As the mother of a child who experienced serious health problems at a young age, Klobuchar is quite familiar with the insufficiencies of maternity benefits and healthcare in the US. Through her own experience, she has drafted legislature to extend a new mother’s hospital stay and privileges, and continues to work on behalf of women and mothers nationwide.
Senator Klobuchar possesses an empathy that most male senators don’t, which keeps her accountable to her citizens, and constantly working on their behalf. The article explains, “women legislators focus on the issues that affect women –such as family leave, violence against women, and women’s health – but they also seem to be far more effective at legislating, period.”
The disparity between male and female senators may be a daunting and unfair statistic, but it’s one that can only improve in the future. As more and more Americans realize just how determined, innovative and accountable to their citizens female politicians are, the number of women in office will only rise. The need for more women in US office stems from a need for more gender equality, but also from a need for more female minds crafting our legislature and governing our country.