By Executive Director Mikala Cohen
It might be weird, but I’ve discussed the prospect of whose face I’d want tattooed on my arm if I so desired. I had the conversation it with my roommate* last summer after finding out she had claimed the email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, as a pseudo-email that would re-route to her official email address. Does anyone ever email her at that address? No. But could they? Absolutely. After this exciting revelation, I proceeded, like any other passionately feminist Democrat making rational decisions, to claim the pseudonym email address “email@example.com” after finding out that firstname.lastname@example.org was already taken. After informing my roommate of this esteemed accomplishment and testing to confirm it would reroute any emails sent to email@example.com to my official uchicago email address, we moved on to a conversation on what feminist icon we would have tattooed portrait-style on our arms (what else do you talk about while washing the dishes?).
While I considered such historical icons as Harriet Tubman (famed American abolitionist and badass spy for the Union during the Civil War), Jeannette Rankin (first female member of Congress and general badass extraordinaire who refused to vote to go to war in WWI and WWII because women could not be drafted) and this boss who hit a neo-Nazi with her handbag in 1985 , we couldn’t help ourselves from choosing women living today who work in the highest levels of government. I chose Ruth Bader Ginsburg because she is the most powerful liberal justice on the Supreme Court who has fought for a woman’s right to choose and Democratic values for decades now; she’s “notorious” for a reason and I would honor that with permanent ink on my body if I had to. My roommate chose Angela Merkel because she is German’s first female Chancellor who helped usher her nation and all of Europe through the global financial crisis of 2008 as the de-facto leader of the EU; also if Kate McKinnon impersonates someone, you know that person is tattoo-worthy.
On the morning I wrote this post, it was announced that Andrea Leadsom dropped out of the running to replace David Cameron as the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister and that Home Secretary Theresa May will claim the leadership with more than 60% of the support of her fellow Conservative MPs. Margaret Thatcher was the first and last female Prime Minister for the UK who attracted the ire of American Democrats and many British citizens throughout her reign. Before learning about her political activities that, admittedly, are far from in line with the Democratic Party of her time and today, I grew up admiring Margaret Thatcher as a badass who ruled the United Kingdom, one of the United States’ most important and critical partners in international politics. For me, she wasn’t the Leader of the Conservative Party that emphasized deregulation and reduction of the power and influence of trade unions, but represented the possibility for the future in other major countries of the world. If the UK could have a female head of government, then there was no reason the United States couldn’t as well.
Theresa May isn’t Margaret Thatcher, and thank any and all deities that you may subscribe to for that. She’s voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, made worker’s rights a major part of her political platform, and committed to changing the way big businesses are governed to serve the British people. She said that, “We need a government that will deliver serious social reform – and make ours a country that truly works for everyone. Because right now, if you’re born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white.” She even sounds like an American Democrat at times, but obviously isn’t. She’s committed to following through with Great Britain’s “Brexit” decision, saying that “Brexit is Brexit,” and has some anti-immigration stances.
But here’s the thing: Theresa May will ascend as the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the same year that Hillary Clinton will become the first female President of the United States and Angela Merkel will remain the first female Chancellor of Germany. In 2017, we’re going to see pictures of three women conversing at NATO summit meetings as the leaders of the three greatest political powers of the West. The New York Times, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, BBC and Süddeutsche Zeitung will write articles on the goings-on of press conferences of President Clinton and Prime Minister May, or Prime Minster May and Chancellor Merkel, or Chancellor Merkel and President Clinton. While the Senate and House of Representatives will remain overwhelmingly white, old and male, the international landscape of leaders will come closer than ever to resembling the world’s population.
Unfortunately, this summer my roommate is working in Chicago and I’m interning in Washington D.C., so we haven’t been able to talk about the latest women to be added to the roster of possibilities for us to bring to the tattoo parlor. If we could, we’d likely debate over the merits of adding incoming Prime Minister Theresa May, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Justice Sotomayor, Congresswoman Mia Love, and the remarkable woman who faced riot police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana while protesting against recent police shootings of black men in the U.S. Are we close to parity? Not yet. Are we making critical strides to female representation in government and business? Absolutely. And is this a solely an issue for the Democratic Party? Definitely not. It’s an issue for our generation to embrace with gusto in every level of government, from your local aldermanic seat in Chicago to the Senate race in New Hampshire.
The more women that we can turn to as additions to our feminist sleeves of dream, the merrier. If Theresa May isn’t your thing, don’t worry Sotomayor, Kagan and Warren have not been reserved at any local tattoo parlor just yet.
*The aforementioned roommate is the incomparable Angela Zhao who will absolutely respond to any emails sent to her Merkel address.