(Frankfort, March 1993) - Studying the depressing statistics on the number of women in elected office in Kentucky, the question of why so few women seek political office was discussed endlessly around the editorial table. Women hold significant proportion s of elective office on school boards, county and circuit clerkships, city councils and county magistrates. They are running for office, but they are staying close to home. A pool of leadership is beginning to form, but it is too early to see if the pool will spill into a river that leads women to the state capital.
Even though one person dare not speak for that large class of under-represented citizens, this writer has over forty years* more experience asking what women want than most editorial writers. A member of the class, reared by strong women, taught by women, befriended by women and working with women, this writer has her own personal want list for all.
1. Women want to be seen as individuals. We are not all cranky once a mont. We are not just body parts to sell products. We are not all emotional. We do not all scream at spiders. We want to stand on our strengths and weaknesses without prejudgment because our plumbing is different.
2. Women want to be respected. As that wise philosopher of the Sixties, Aretha Franklin, said in song, we want R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Men may not wind up respecting each other, but they don’t start out that way. Women simply want that same beginning.
3. Women want household duties shared. Women want ot know that the men in thie lives do not automatically assume that the woman will be responsible for those mundane chores that keep mutant dust bunnies from taking over the planet. Doing housework is not a sex linked characteristic. Some people enjoy cleaning and dusting and doing dishes. The rest of us see these chores as necessary evils.
4. Women want a chance to participate. Not every woman desires to be president, but it would be refreshing to know that if a woman has the same talent and drive as a man, she can go as high as the man’s talents will take him.
5. Women want to be safe. Being safe means not living in fear of being raped, beaten, accosted on the street, yelled at by construction workers, or being physically or emotionally abused by a significant other.
6. Women want decent child care. Even women without children recognize that lack of good child care hurts productivity in the workplace. Workers who are worried about their children cannot concentrate on the job at hand. Children are the raw material of our adult population. All of us have a stake in turning out the best future citizens possible.
8. Women want adequate medical care. Research on menopause is still in its infancy. Women have faced menopause since time began. Does anyone believe that if men had the same symptoms that major research would just be starting?
9. Women want to be allowed to grow old. We are told to hide our gray, keep our figures, grease our wrinkles. In wiser societies, old women are respected. In this culture, old women are ignored.
10. Women want financial equality. Certainly equal pay is part of that equation, but only part. Financial equality means both sexes have the same access to credit, investment, purchasing power.
The list could go on and on. But the point is that women want basically the same rights and opportunities that, but for a tricky little chromosome, they would enjoy. Women don’t want to be men, don’t want to deprive men. They simply want to share in the promise of freedom. It seems little enough to ask.
The women in the General Assembly are so few that they have no collective clout to put forward their agendas. If women were proportionately represented to their population, there would be seventy women serving in the Legislature. As it is now, there are six.**
The Year of the Woman has passed Kentucky by. But there will be other years, other elections. Instead of asking why more women in politics, the better question is why not?
Editor's Notes *Two decades older than when this was written.
**As of 2014, Kentucky has 25 women in the Legislature out of 138 members. That’s an increase from 4% to 18% in 23 years. From last in the nation, the Commonwealth's climbed to 37th.