Ain't I A Woman?: Massachusetts Postmortem

Ain't I A Woman?: Massachusetts Postmortem

Joni Kay Rose
3 min read
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Scott Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley in Massachusetts has been hyped in the media as a product of voter "anger" and a growing "anti-establishment" mood that may sweep across the country. Everyone seems to agree that Brown conducted a more dynamic campaign that Coakley. In addition, while Republicans pulled a good number of voters, turnout was lower among young people, urban voters and perhaps even women—all of whom could have disproportionately favored Coakley.

Massachusetts women actually voted for Coakley over Brown by 50 percent to 47 percent, according to Hart Research exit poll. Yet this did not offset the 53 percent to 40 percent advantage Brown secured among male voters. Gender clearly was a major issue in this election.

“Welcome to liberal Massachusetts—we’re not,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political consultant, in
an article by Katie Zezima in the New York Times . "For decades, women have been unable to gain a solid political toehold in Massachusetts, a state long dominated by male political figures. Five women in Massachusetts’s history—including Ms. Coakley, the attorney general—have been elected to statewide constitutional office, and four have been elected to the House of Representatives."

Dan Payne in the same article said Coakley never mentioned her gender or that she would have been the state’s first female United States senator, while Scott Brown, her opponent, ran "a macho, testosterone campaign," and drove around the state in a pickup.

As in Massachusetts, so in the nation? Possibly, and not only because the Democratic Party seems now stagnant while the Republicans are resurgent. Though it should be noted that since Joe Lieberman’s defection, along with the continuing recalcitrance of the (mostly male) Blue Dog Democrats, there really was no 60 percent majority to lose.

But Massachusetts may also be typical in another respect. Women still have to work twice as hard to prove themselves in the political arena throughout most of the nation. Gender has placed Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at a disadvantage as much as it has Sarah Palin. And neither they nor any other woman is likely to be elected to any high-ranking national political office without solid support from women.

Meanwhile we’ve seen the truth about Massachusetts, a supposedly "liberal" state with a working-class Catholic base, dominated by an entrenched Democratic political machine, with an African American man serving as governor. But it’s also a strongly patriarchal state where female candidates of any political affiliation have a very difficult uphill battle against their male opponents. Massachusetts still has never sent a woman to the United States Senate.

Doesn’t all this sound just too familiar to women here in the Land of Disenchantment?
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