Ladies and gents, some views on gender

Your June 6 editorial "As gender walls fall" is correct that women's progress in the political arena has been very slow, particularly in winning leadership posts in Congress and state governors' offices. While women's empowerment in elective office has been extremely poor in the Old South (excluding Florida) and states like Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, there has been very encouraging news for women on the West Coast and in the Northeast. California, for instance, has two female US senators and 17 women in its US House delegation - including Diane Watson, who was elected on June 6. The state of Washington also has two female senators, as well as a record 40 percent female membership in its state legislature. And Maine not only has two women in the US senate, but has just instituted a Clean Election law - providing reasonable public funding for political campaigns - that has attracted many women to run for office for the first time.

According to a Roper Starch poll (for Deloitte & Touche) conducted in 1999, there are still 16 percent of Americans who will not vote for a female presidential candidate, compared to 32 percent who said this in 1991. Also, 9 percent said they would not vote for a woman Vice President, and 7 percent who would not for a female governor.

This latent bias against women running for higher office can be overcome by women, who are now the majority of voters. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, and many other female office-holders won their elections with a large majority of female voters. As we get closer to gender parity in Congress and state governments, we will see significantly more women in leadership posts, and hopefully the White House.

George A. Dean Southport, Conn.

Alas, your May 21 editorial "Single dads, hard at work," meant to acknowledge single fathers, comes across as patronizing. It relies on common stereotypes about men, assumes mothers are the yardstick for measuring parental success, and evinces little research into the subject discussed.

Single fathers don't just do as well as single mothers - on average they do better. Single fathers are more likely than single mothers to raise their children without need of public assistance. Children raised by single fathers do better in school, get into less trouble with the law, and are more likely to have a good relationship with their absent parent.

What's more, awarding either sole or joint custody to fathers helps stabilize the family, as indicated by lowered divorce rates in states where joint custody is the norm. That helps us achieve what should be our primary goal - making sure kids grow up in a home with a mom and a dad.

Paul C. Robbins Lakewood, Colo.

Regarding your April 13 soccer article, "Women stars have league of their own": I'm a girl, a future baseball player, and I couldn't agree with you more - because in this world women have a right to play professional baseball. My dream someday is to play for the Silver Bullets. Hopefully, in my time there will be a professional league. Women rule, and I think men are afraid of getting their behinds whipped. If someday you put a women's pro team to play against a men's pro team, obviously the women will win, because they put their minds to it and they dedicate their profession to baseball/softball.

I really wish President Bush could do somthing about this situation. It burns inside me each day when I get up and women don't as yet have real jobs as professional baseball players. It'd really mean a lot to know that there were true fans calling out your name in crowds, and wanting your autograph, and buying your picture to hang up in their rooms as a role model. If anything like that happens, it'll be a dream come true.

Anika Gangaya Sooklal Newark, N.J.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters include your name, mailing address and phone number. Mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail oped@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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