Is America’s Sweetheart a Cowgirl?
“17% of the members in the House of Representatives are women, compared to 25% in the Iraqi Parliament.”
There are few things I enjoy more on a lazy Sunday morning than a lazy breakfast accompanied by the New York Times. I am staying at my grandmother’s in Manhattan this weekend and she says that there are few things she enjoys more than having someone to discuss the articles with. We had just finished discussing the corruption that plagues the Iraqi government (for the article that prompted this, see Mark Mazzetti’s piece about ex-spy Duane R. Clarridge in the main section) when the above statistic caught my eye as I opened the magazine section.
Even the famously troubled Iraqi government has the U.S. beat in female representation.
Although I tend to focus on the numbers of women missing from our Congress, it is interesting to think about the types of women that have ascended to occupy some of the highest offices in our land. Rebecca Traister provides a fascinating analysis of these women like Sarah Palin and Gabrielle Giffords in her article, “Cowgirl Country.”
In this piece, Traister argues that the cowgirl stereotype is that one most readily accepted by Americans. She argues that this is based in the American history of women, writing,
Frontier womanhood has emerged as one of the only historically American models of aspirational femininity available to girls
She asserts that this is the only “foundational fantasy of female strength and individualism we’ve agreed upon as embodying American power.” This is in contrast with popular male personas: “we have made considerably less imaginative space for ways in which women can persuade us of their ability to lead.”
Although I certainly agree that female leaders face a unique “double bind” in having to appear both caring and compassionate (i.e., “female”) as well as confident and assertive (i.e., “male”), I had never thought of cowgirls as being the only acceptable image we have in America if a strong woman. This is what I found most fascinating about Traister’s piece.
What do you think? Is the U.S. “Cowgirl Country”?