Continued Patriarchy: The Lack of Women in State Legislatures

After thisthis, and now this post all in a row, I promise this will be my last map post for a while. This time I returned to the state legislature as the subject of analysis, and I looked here at the percentage of women in every state legislature. Let's take a look at my result:

The clear impression is one of inequality: Only in four states are over a third of the legislators women, and leader Colorado still only has 41%, which means all the states fall far short of any sort of gender parity. The national total is that 24% of state legislators are women. While this is the highest percentage in our country's history, I don't think it's anything to be proud of.

There isn't quite a red state-blue state division apparent in the map, although all eight of the states with 16% or less sent their electoral votes to McCain in the last presidential election. The top-performing "red state" according to the 2008 election would be Arizona, tied for third, but Colorado voted for Bush twice, and there are a few "blue states" that are below average, like Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan.

Besides partisan politics, however, I would say there's something else at the root of so few women getting into state legislatures. To use a theory put forward by one of my current professors, the lack of gender parity in U.S. government has to do with deep-seated patriarchy. My professor claims that in the past, patriarchy has tied men together of all social classes; if the socio-economic structure provides men at every level with the means to rule their households, men will be very attached to that structure, and they will not easily give it up. For example, in my professor's book, he cites how in New Spain only men could earn wages, and part of those wages were corn and cloth. Now, it was the women of course who had to make the cornmeal and make the clothes, but it was her husband or other patriarch who got the goods, and then he had power over her because she had to get them from him.

Although we can't point out a dynamic as obvious as that in the United States today, I think this map very much demonstrates the lingering presence of patriarchy. If I might put forward a very elementary theory, it is in the west, where white immigrants were most uprooted and most had to start over with something new, that women have the biggest roles in legislatures. For example, while Alaska doesn't have the highest percentage, it does do better than average, and I think that may have something to do with its nature as the "Last Frontier." The exception to this in the Mountain West is Utah, which was quite obviously founded as a patriarchal society, and in the Great Plains places like Wyoming and the Dakotas, where the main livelihoods of ranching and farming would have been controlled by men.

Well, tell me what you think of my little theory. What are the practical ways in which to get more women into state legislatures? or do you think that it's even a problem? I wonder if anyone from South Carolina will read this post. If you do, please tell me why only 9% of your state legislators are women. I'd be very interested to hear it.

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