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Women in Politics

May 10, 2010

I’ve been following closely the primary race between the candidates for State Representative in the 182nd Legislative District in Philadelphia, and, if you haven’t, I highly recommend it for some usual and not so usual reasons. As is often the case, the not so usual reasons are the most interesting.

If you haven’t seen the coverage – local and national – Rep. Babette Josephs says her primary challenger Gregg Kravitz claimed to be gay, then appeared at an event with his girlfriend, and after Josephs
“outed” him as being straight, he changed his story and claimed to be bi-sexual.  Josephs claims Kravitz lied to garner support from the district’s gay constituents. Kravitz denies lying, and says his bi-sexuality is relevant because it shows he is a stakeholder with respect to issues that are important to the LGBT community. The volleying has made for some interesting headlines, but that is not the primary reason I chose to blog about this race.

Many consider Josephs, a Respresentative since 1984, to be a woman trailblazer, having graduated from law school in 1976 at a time when women were still substantially outnumbered by men, and having been elected to office at a time when it was not necessarily the womanly thing to do. I have never met her in person, but she called me last week to invite me to a fundraiser tomorrow evening, and to tell me about some other things that trouble her about Kravitz.

Much of what we discussed seemed like typical politics to me, but one thing particularly stuck with me.  Josephs claims that Kravitz, aged 29, refers to her as an old lady. If so, what exactly does he mean by that? Frankly, the more I think about it, the less I can make sense of it since Josephs seems to be one of the most liberal and progressive candidates out there.

As I thought about it further, I began to wonder whether women of all ages would consider this type of talk fairplay and typical politicing, or be irritated that someone would characterize a women trailblazer as an old lady – regardless of what they thought about her politics. Should we expect a higher level of civility? Should we as women feel protective of those who have blazed trails before us, or should we simply accept what some may say comes naturally for those who have chosen careers in politics?

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