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Congress, now with fewer crotch pics

OPINION

  • Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is the first openly gay U.S. senator.
Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is the first openly gay U.S. senator. (Getty Images file photo )
January 09, 2013|By Niki Fritz, @fritzfrack | For RedEye

Twenty years ago, reporters dubbed 1993 the Year of the Woman, after a glass-ceiling-cracking, record-shattering SIX women became U.S. senators. I was 7 and ecstatic with the news. I remember putting on my power scrunchie and marching into my first-grade classroom ready to dominate.

Suddenly those "I can do anything boys can do" picture books made sense. My future was not limited to being a teacher or a mommy. I was going to be the president of the United States, mainly because I thought it would be cool to have people drive me around in a limo with American flags on it. To my 7-year-old self, the year of the woman meant a lifetime of possibility.

In comparison, 2013 kicks 1993's butt in a way that makes me want to bust out the power scrunchie again! The 113th Congress includes 20 powerhouse female senators. That is 20 role models for little girls everywhere.

In 1993, the Year of the Woman included one Republican and five Democrats, including former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who made history by becoming the first black female senator. This year, the 20 female senators include 16 Democrats, four Republicans, the first openly gay senator and the first Asian-American female senator.

This increase may even help the U.S. rise above its pathetic 90th-place ranking of women in politics, as calculated by the WCF Foundation. That is right: The U.S. is 90th behind Rwanda, Cuba, Nepal and Bolivia, to name just a few countries that proportionally have more women represented in legislature. But beyond the numbers, more women in Congress we'll have more well-rounded political discourse and produce better legislation.

I'm not saying women are better politicians than men. I'm saying that as a democracy, we make the best decisions when we are all included. Women also are naturally better at not taking and sending crotch shots to interns, so this new Congress should have fewer distractions.

Of course there are still more hurdles to jump and hills to climb, and you know that figurative glass ceiling is still intact. So far, the Senate has had only two women of color. To truly utilize all of America's talent, we have to include not just women but women of color. And although my blood bleeds blue, the Republican Party needs to amp up its game and recruit more conservative women to add to the mix.

Obviously there still is work to be done. But when I remember my small world of 1993 compared to today, I can't help but be excited about how far we've come. Unfortunately, I have way too many unflattering photos on Facebook to ever run for president, or even the local school board for that matter.

But I know there are thousands of little girls out there who haven't yet defiled their potential political careers with Shania Twain karaoke videos on YouTube. For example, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte's 8-year-old daughter recently asked her mom not to run for president because she wanted to be the first female president. Now that's the kind of chutzpah we need in the White House.

Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.

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