Magazine article The Nation

Not Women of the Year

Magazine article The Nation

Not Women of the Year

Article excerpt

Although absentee ballots remain to be counted, it looks as though Geraldine Ferraro, an apparent shoo-in only weeks ago, has lost the New York Democratic Senate primary to State Attorney General Bob Abrams. The other female candidate in the race, Liz Holtzman, did even worse, coming in dead last behind the notorious but surprisingly likable Al Sharpton. A gloomy omen for the Year of the Woman in politics? Not necessarily: Ferraro was hampered by persistent charges, made most vigorously by Holtzman, of Mafia connections, as well as by positions--e.g., her support for the death penalty--well to the right of the liberal types who turn out for Democratic primaries.

Still, the Year of the Woman is turning out to be a more complicated business than it seemed in the immediate aftermath of the Hill-Thomas hearings. Back then, you will remember, a mighty wave of female indignation was going to sweep into office a new breed of politician--women who, because they were outsiders, would resist the men's club, go-along-to-get-along culture of Congress; who, because they were women, would "get it" about sexual harassment, reproductive freedom and sex discrimination; who would usher in a more "caring" domestic agenda and a less cut-throat, ego-driven style of politics.

What Ferraro's defeat shows is that these assumptions are facile. Neither Holtzman nor Ferraro could portray herself as a political ingenue--the "mother in tennis shoes" mantle proudly donned by Patty Murray, who won her Senate primary in Washington State--and neither fit the stereotypical femininity promoted by Year of the Woman publicists: Holtzman lacks the required warmth, Ferraro the squeaky-cleanness. …

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