Term Paper: Compare Women Politics

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¶ … history of women in politics is filled with both struggle and victory. Women have had to overcome a general social view of them by both men and those of their own gender as weak and belonging in the kitchen rather than in the political arena. As such, women, and especially those belonging to ethnic minority groups, have struggled to become involved in politics and change in their worlds. By examining the political situations in Canada, the United States and Mexico, this struggle is examined below.

The historical entry of women into politics in the past was mainly via non-institutional means. Institutional politics, especially during the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, was mainly controlled by men. Women therefore had to seek a more subtle entry into positions of power. Indeed, according to Alexandra Dobrowolsky, women even in recent times have been particularly strong in unconventional, non-institutional politics. In Canada particularly women are however underrepresented. Dobrowolsky however holds that women should do the same as their earlier counterparts: rather than directly fight existing systems, they should instead use their existing strength to enter the political arena in a more subtle way. As such, Dobrowolsky calls for an integrated politics of recognition, as well as a politics of transformation, in which all forms of politics; both institutional and non-institutional, would be available for entry by any ethnic or gender group that would choose to enter the political arena.

The basic similarity between institutional and non-institutional politics is therefore the fact that both provide its leaders with positions from which change can be effected. Women in non-conventional politics for example have the power to change the image of women in politics from the weak to the strong. From here, women are also in a stronger position to enter institutional politics. The fundamental difference is that institutional politics is often also an arena that is difficult for women and other minority groups to enter, unless they do so from existing political connections. This, as will be seen, is however not impossible. Still, it appears that non-institutional politics is more effective for women than institutional politics.

In terms of history, Canadian women, comprising over 50% of the population at the time, were not included in the political negotiations that culminated in the creation of the country during 1867. This marks the beginning of women's struggle in the country to become part of the country in terms of the democratic right to vote, hold office and participate in public life. To do this, institutional politics such as laws, the government and political systems stood in the way of these women.

It is only in 1970 that the Royal Commission of the Status of Women focused on the inequality problem faced by women in Canada. Women were still however obliged to fight for their equality via non-institutional politics, seeking equal rights in terms of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and participation in Constitutional debates. In this way, they continued the struggle for rights for themselves and other minority groups within the self-governed country.

Currently, women in Canada are still underrepresented in institutional politics. While this does undermine the democratic system of the country, as mentioned above, women are in a position of strength in terms of non-institutional politics. In theory, however, women gained already gained a political stronghold during the 1920's, when women were able to vote and run as candidates for the first time in the federal election. Four women ran for office on this occasion, including Agnes Campbell MacPhail (1890-1954). She was the first woman to enter the Canadian House of Commons.

Although they are still underrepresented, this certainly encouraged women to be more prominent in institutional politics. Indeed, form 1921 to 2006, 3402 women candidates made themselves available for election, and won 426 times. It therefore appears that, as women fortified their positions as politicians worthy of note, they also gained favor in the public view. This favor can then be used to strengthen their position in institutional politics, and pave the way for further women to gain power in politics.

In contrast to Canada, the United States and its politics were not in its inception stages when women's rights became an issue during the beginning of the 20th century. While Canadian politicians were distracted by their obligations and debates regarding the country's birth, American politicians were more focused upon human rights and the democracy for which the country had become known.

Working against women's rights in this regard, as in Canada, was the conventional view of women as primarily homemakers and mothers. This is a paradigm that is deeply ingrained in the collective Western consciousness. Indeed, as the main part of their lives were accepted as being in the home, women were also seen as weaker and less intelligent than men. Hence they were not regarded as worthy of inclusion in institutional politics. Like Canadian women, however, American women also proved themselves worthy and more than sufficiently intelligent to fight for and gain the right not only to education and job opportunities, but also the right to vote and stand for office. Concomitantly, they also succeeded in reforming the traditional views of women as less intelligent than men by proving themselves in the institutional political arena.

The general equality of women in the United States appears to run parallel with the situation in Canada. While the right to vote was granted during the 1920s, it was only during the 1960s that federal law improved the economic status of women in the country. Specifically, examples of these laws are the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provided women with the right to work without discrimination when employed together with 25 or more other employees.

Again as in Canada, discrimination however persisted and women continued to be victims of discrimination not only in politics, but also in the workplace. Laws of welfare, crime, prostitution and abortion for example continued displaying a bias against women. An example of this is the frequent investigation of mothers receiving welfare payments.

In terms of politics, the United States contrasts with Canada in terms of prominent women in politics. Indeed, it was only during 1984 that a major party chose Geraldine Ferraro, the firs woman in such a role, to run for vice-president. In 1917, however Jeanette Rankin of Montana was elected to member of the United States House of Representatives, while Shirley Chisholm of New York was the first black woman elected for such a position. The first Senator was Hattie Caraway of Arkansas in 1933, followed by Senator Margaret Chase Smith in Maine during 1949 to 1973. Many other women served as Senators, the most notorious of which is the recently elected Hillary Clinton.

In terms of more prominent political positions, the first woman to win a governorship is Ella T. Grasso in 1974, while both Chicago and San Francisco were headed by women in 1979. The above examples, along with a myriad other cases of women prominently displaying their political prowess, appears to indicate that women in the United States enjoy a more prominent position in institutional politics than those in Canada.

Mexico contrasts strongly with both the United States and Canada in terms of politics and the position of women in the country. According to Victoria Rodriguez, the governing elite has only recently become plural in nature. This follows more than seventy years of single party rule. The current political situation includes the dominant party, the Party of the Institutionalized Revolution, PRI, and the combination of opposition forces including the National Action Party, PAN, and the Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD.

The political situation for women also appears favorable. As in the United States and Canada, women are still underrepresented, but… [END OF PREVIEW]

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