REV. JOAN WARD: Nancy and Hillary -- Power and Promise
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi struck just the right note in her acceptance speech as the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Her joy was infectious, and her determination to do a good job was made clear to all.
But what brought tears to my eyes was the sight of all those kids surrounding her at the podium, at her invitation, jostling one another aside to get to the center of attention: a young sister holding the baby in her family; brothers "negotiating" the use of the gavel; older siblings herding the little ones along with careful authority; and Madam Speaker doing what comes naturally to her -- multitasking in the middle of all the energetic confusion.
It was an iconic moment. We learn it in family life lest we be overwhelmed by the demands of keeping order amidst chaos. What touched me most, as a woman, was how natural it all seemed to have another woman up there doing it.
If we have, as Pelosi says, "waited 200 years for this to happen," then it stands to reason the women of this country need to give her all the help she requires to lead the House with grace and competency.
I am impressed by the enthusiastic support she has from her colleagues, both male and female. This is a dramatic paradigm shift from the truncated Judeo-Christian world view supporting notions of the authority of the Pale Male over those who are neither.
Like Congress, Mother Church has engaged in the politics of gender during my lifetime in contentious and often disgraceful exhibitions of disregard for the abilities and talents of women. My sisters in ministry (and the brothers who support us) have suffered through many indignities and dangers along the way.
During the Vietnam war era, socially conscious women in religion employed a word to meet the need for greater understanding: "misogyny," which is from the Greek: "misogynia" -- hatred, hostility, indifference toward woman.
Misogyny is a sinful state leading to criminal acts against women and therefore their children. I believe war is a prime example of this.
As we prepare for the 2008 presidential election, with Hillary Clinton as a leading candidate, the misogynic vitriol spews forth on all sides.
A greeting card I have pinned to my fridge shows a smirking Madame President Clinton at the Oval Office desk. The acidic sentiment reads: "See? There are some things scarier than turning a year older!" I keep it there to remind me to stay the course toward egalitarian reform.
Hillary Clinton has claimed her political turf the hard way: in Congress. In 1995, despite death threats, she wowed an international gathering of women leaders at the fourth U.N. "Decade Of Women" Conference in Beijing, declaring, "Womens' rights are human rights!"
Begun in 1976 , these conferences created ongoing self-help programs in aid of women and children.
We now see an increase in women elected to political office throughout the world. That's power, folks, pure and simple.
Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton impress me as women who prefer being reconcilers rather than reactionaries. Perhaps, as the birth-givers of new life, they therefore value human life all the more.
Misogynism is a sin and therefore a crime against humanity. It should be dealt with as such.
It is high time we abolished it from all public discourse and activity. It's up to all of us to pay our respects to the women (and men!) who got us the vote less than a century ago. Then, let's give Madam Speaker the encouragement and affirmation she has so richly earned.
The Rev. Dr. Joan Ward lives in Pinehurst.
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