Women, Power, and Politics in Montana

When Secretary of State Hilary Clinton does a world tour, or speaks on the current status of American foreign policy, I pay attention. Not because of her gender, politics, or husband, but because she has direct access to issues that I should be concerned with. Resultantly, nothing irritates me more than when the discussion of a powerful female leader centers on her clothing choice rather than her policy stance. Nevertheless, the American people eat up this type of news.  Even with the current focus on women’s issues, the person who should be the pinpoint of female American political success is watered down to a model of wing-tipped glasses and power pantsuits.

We can, and should, do better than that by our elected officials. Especially in Montana, the state where Kim Gillian says, “Opportunity knocks for women.”

As a state, we peaked in 2009 with 26% of the legislature consisting of women. Currently, four executive positions and 25% of the legislature are female. Ironically, this is bit ahead of the curve when compared to the rest of the United States and we should be proud of it.

But, there are still areas that need work. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall of any Montana dining room when in 1999 Rick Hill deemed his opponent Nancy Keenan, who is without children due to a necessary hysterectomy, unfit for office because she could not understand the needs of the mothers whose children were targeted at Columbine. Aside from the inappropriateness of using the shooting as an opportunity to score political points, this argument is particularly ridiculous when considering the myriad of other issues that Hill could have attacked on instead, like he would have with another man. We obviously still have room for improvement in terms of taking seriously the issues surrounding equality of representation in Montana.

I would argue further that we should be outraged by political rhetoric, serious or not, that promotes quiet hostility against, or the dismissal of, women’s participation in the political process (i.e. Rush Limbaugh on “how it all went wrong”, when “women got the right to vote.”). Silent allowance promotes disregard for women in power outside of election season and healthcare debates. One would hope that, from both sides of the isle, the approach to our female representatives would be with the same level of respect and attention demanded of any elected official, regardless of what he or she is wearing. For some reason, this is not the case.

Please do not misunderstand me; I am not promoting voting for someone based upon their gender. That would be just as deplorable as NOT voting for someone for the same reason. My point though, is that a candidate’s oversight of another representative as a pretty face or rubber-stamp instead of capable, intelligent, and reliable should be a voting issue across Montana. It has to be. How can we hope to raise up a generation of Montanans that value every person’s individual rights, from the ranch to the capital, if we do not pay attention to half our population?

Luckily, Montana is blessed with a myriad of effective, diligent, and brilliant candidates that seek to improve our current equality status. “Inspiring a generation” does not only apply to the Olympic games; it should be a rallying cry for a conscious decision to continually support equality.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author


I am a Montanan, fisher-person, and a passionate progressive. My political interests lie within political ethics, economic justice, and the responsiveness of government to the needs of real people.


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  • Thanks for the feedback. The quote is from the AP in 1999, before his resignation and after Keenan was named an opponent.

  • Great Post! I believe women can make a difference in this state as well.

    I think the time is right for it, and I believe Democratic women can add the word, “Care” back into what a government should do for its people.

    One of my Favorite, young Male writers is Tucker Max who said,

    “ Men will treat you the way you let them. There is no such thing as “deserving” respect; you get what you demand from people.. if you demand respect, he will either respect you or he won’t associate with you. It really is that simple.”

    Half of the voters in this state are women, so it is important for women to get into politics, and run. It isn’t gonna be handed to you on a silver plate, A lot of men still think, they should have a bigger share of the state pie. Your gonna have to go out and earn it, take it, and use it to make things better for our half, for our communities .

    Lastly, even in our own party you are gonna run across guys, who think they can do better… The difference is… they aren’t the ones with the guts to run, you are as a woman. I talk to “stuck in the mud” concerned progressive males like this every day. Guys who think women aren’t strong enough to get the job done( Yeah, they are still stuck in the 1950’s , right along with the T Party).

    But that was one of the very reasons I am running, I don’t think like these complainers, who would rather cede the fight to a bad republican, then give the job, to a tough minded Democratic women in this state, to intellectually kick some butt, and move all Montanan’s forward.

    Run Ladies… Run every chance you get. Its time for measured, intellectual, caring trust to be poured back into our states affairs.

    At the end of all of this, we may win some races and may lose some… but at least we will be known for having been bloodied, and battled for change. Unlike the male whiners.

    Lastly, as a proud woman of 55 years, and an old school feminist, I am gonna give you a pearl of my wisdom. No it is not nice, but it is blatantly true:

    “Parroting your Party and agreeing with everything some of the guys say in it all the time is no substitute for, nor is it the same as having a spine of your own for you, for your sisters, for your Community.

    And remember, spines DO bend and move. They aren’t rigid. Don’t confuse having an iron rod stuck up your butt with having a spine.”

    • “There is no such thing as “deserving” respect; you get what you demand from people.. if you demand respect, he will either respect you or he won’t associate with you.”

      Tucker Max couldn’t be more wrong. He doesn’t think there is no such thing as “deserving respect”. He calls quite obviously for people to demand what they think they deserve, including very much respect. I demand acreage, and goats and a pony. I deserve them because I demand them. Uhhh, really? I definitely deserve such. But who’s gonna give it to me? Like trust, respect is a gift. If you demand a gift from the giver, is it the giver’s fault that you don’t get what you think you deserve? From Tucker’s thinking, it most certainly is. What is given is never “earned”. It is a grant from the giver based on compassion. Always. What is demanded is never given. It is coerced.

    • First of all, great piece, Micah. It’s disheartening that the same old stereotypes and prejudices confound the image of the powerful woman in much the same way they always have, even when some of the most accomplished and influential women are still on the scene. Worst of all, in my opinion, is the fact that there are women in positions of power that embrace the sort of type-casting that you mention Clinton has gotten, then use it to springboard their personal political agenda (Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann are apt examples). A sad reality is that most of our generation doesn’t have the efficacy or inclination to filter political filth from inspiration, and the stories surrounding the vast and tangible accomplishments of women like Pelosi or Clinton are diluted by stories that demonstrate the glamor and ignorance of others–by the sorts that are most apt to increase ratings.

      Cheers on the post!

      @ilikewoods: Tucker Max doesn’t really deserve to be qualified as a writer. He’s a frat-boy that found a pen, tripped, and fell on it in some way that produced the worst garbage that’s ever been published. I hope you find him an empowering figure because he is someone you think women could pit themselves against to prove that they are, as often as not, much more intelligent, compassionate and reasonable than men. A list quotes elucidating his vastly immature, misogynistic inclinations:

      “Motherf***er. She leaves me no choice. Now I have to break her self-esteem, sleep with her and steal the shirt.”

      “Your gender is hardwired for whoredom.”

      “Fat girls aren’t real people.”

      “We can’t all go after the girl with low self-esteem.”

      “I’d rather mainline Drano than listen to another minute of your whore prattle.”

      • That is exactly the reason I read him. Let me be to the point, that nowhere in the last 75 years of writing I have read, has anyone else gone to such great lengths to show us the extreme ID of a man. Tucker has, and I applaud him for it.

        Required reading for any women who wants to know how far a man might press himself against the gutter of life to accomplish his goals, and the women who let him do it!

        I gotta say I found his books in almost every airport and harbor I have been to for the last 8 years. That’s how I got to know him, while waiting to be flown somewhere else. He might not deserve to be a writer, but the guys been on the best seller list for years.

        Secondly, the man is human for all his failings, he seemed the perfect guy to tell the sorted tale and is still alive to tell it. Not a Hunter Thompson Type,but a guy, who got smart enough to get away from that life, before it did kill him.

        I can admire a hustler, as well as loathe what he did….For all he can teach me to stay away from others who still want to play the game, I will no longer be shocked by others who mimic his fame. ….. Just saying!

  • Seriously important issue Micah.

    In fact we need Sandra Fluke to leave the Obama campaign and fly up here and make the rounds with Tester.

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