Remember Helen Reddy? “I am woman. Hear me roar. In numbers too big to ignore.” She had the right idea. For 1973.
Forty years after Reddy sang that refrain the world of politics remains populated primarily by men.
“It’s a man’s world and it’s inherently sexist,” Jon Ralston noted as we discussed congressional candidate Erin Bilbray’s appearance Wednesday night on Ralston Reports. Bilbray almost reminded me of Reddy when she declared during the interview “I am a woman!” But the sweet smell of estrogen quickly turned sour. Bilbray twisted herself into a pretzel trying to explain an earlier allegation that Congressman Joe Heck’s fundraising email in response to her candidacy was “an attack on women.”
I know an attack on women when I see one, and after inspecting Heck’s message, I don’t see it. Or anything even close. It’s almost as if Bilbray in a July 3 radio interview, two days after announcing her candidacy, was intent on playing the gender card, even though it had no place (at least yet) in her possibly winning hand.
Bilbray makes her living preparing would-be female candidates to emerge from their kitchens, mom vans and shopping malls and make their ways to local, state and national capitals. Admittedly, I’ve never walked a mile in their heels, and while I admire their courage for treading into that male-dominated land, I can’t help wonder if the gender card should be left at home, collecting dust in an old purse.
Maybe it takes an organization run by women for women to get women to run for political office. But in my mind the mere act of segregation renders us separate, perceived as not entitled to equality.
Firsts are important. My friend Virginia Valentine was the first female Las Vegas City manager, first female Clark County manager and is the first female president of the Nevada Resort Association. Barbara Buckley was the first female Speaker of the Nevada Assembly. Both are highly accomplished and respected. But I’ve never observed either play the gender card, nor note their trailblazer status.
Maybe the best way to level the playing field is to ignore the tilt. Eventually the sheer weight of all of us, “in numbers too big to ignore” will result in a cosmic shift.
In the meantime, let’s give Ms. Reddy a rest and cue Lady Gaga. I was born this way.