Culture


At last weekend’s TimesTalk panel on women in the Senate, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told the infamous saga of the Senate pool.

The tale goes that when former Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) arrived in the Senate in 2009, she found a sign next to the pool that read “Men Only.” The reason? At least two elected officials liked to swim naked. Hagan saw to it that that rule be updated, and the sign now reads “Proper Attire Required.”

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

But the pool was just an example of a wider problem: In 2015, Politico reported that the women’s gym facilities were worse than the men’s. Since 2013, the Senate has had around 20 women, but the women’s bathroom near the chambers used to have just two stalls. (After open revolt from female senators, the number of stalls has been increased. To four.)

These inequities may seem frivolous—we elect these people to represent our interests, not to hold pool parties—but they make clear who the Senate was built to accommodate. And they have consequences. That two-stall bathroom ate into women’s work time: “Restroom traffic jams were commonplace,” Politico found, “forcing some of the female senators to traipse to a first-floor restroom far from the chamber.”

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Those subtle hassles can have dramatic effects. Recall the furor that ensued in 2015 when Hillary Clinton was (slightly) late back to the stage during a Democratic primary debate because the women’s bathroom was further away from the stage than the men’s. The result was a storm of bad press (Rush Limbaugh speculated on-air that Clinton wore adult diapers) and a riff from Donald Trump calling Clinton “disgusting” for using the bathroom at all. And just this month, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) has had to submit an amendment to Senate rules in order to be allowed to take her infant daughter onto the floor. Duckworth, who gave birth to her second child on April 2, is currently on “unofficial” maternity leave in D.C. But when she returns, she’ll be expected to participate in crucial votes, which she won’t be able to do if her child, who will need to be fed and cared for, isn’t permitted in the Senate.

“If I have to vote, and I’m breastfeeding my child, especially during my maternity leave period, what do I do? Leave her sitting outside?” Duckworth asked in an interview with Politico’s “Women Rule” podcast. In countries with a more proportional number of female representatives, women don’t encounter this problem. Just last summer, Australian MP Larissa Waters addressed Parliament about black lung disease while she breastfed her child. But in the United States, Duckworth is the first senator ever to give birth while in office. Until now, the idea that a mother would need to care for her newborn has just never come up.

When political spaces fail to accommodate women and their needs, the inconveniences add up—making them late for votes, forcing them to miss work because childcare has fallen through, relegating them to inferior facilities—and send a not-subtle message that they’re not in fact supposed to be there.

Government spaces aren’t deliberately designed to exclude and penalize women. But they were designed by men, for men, to accommodate to men as they accumulated power and furthered male interests. In 2018, and with the record number of women running for office, that may be changing. But the actual spaces in question will have to change, too.



Source link

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Kat Von D Lip Liner Vault Is On Sale
Elle Fanning Talks Mary Shelley, Angelina Jolie, and Maleficent 2
What’s the Most Embarrassing Thing You’ve Done for an Ex?
Really Good Self-Portrait Dresses are on Sale Right Now
Meghan Markle’s Wedding Makeup Artist Daniel Martin Talks Royal Wedding Look

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *