Give women a chance

We were a little disappointed at the turnout for the Women Run! forum at the Amherst Town Library, not because of the size of the audience, but because all audience members were women.

While it was important for women to hear an empowering message from women who hold elected office — state Rep. Shannon Chandley, an Amherst Democrat currently running for the state Senate; Merrimack School Board Chairwoman Shannon Barnes, and Laura Dudziak, a member of the Milford select board — we wish some men had attended.

The purpose of the forum was to encourage women to run for elected office, but women can’t win a political race without the support of men. It is a common refrain that men cannot win without the support of women, but seldom do we hear the obverse. Could Chandley have won her legislative seat only with the support of women? The question itself is absurd and the answer obvious.

We wonder how the audience would have looked had there been a panel discussion on the importance of men seeking public office? Would it have been all male? Highly unlikely. It might not have been a 50-50 split, but some women would have been there.

Certainly we agree with Martin Luther King Jr. that people should be judged by the “content of their character,” and neither the color of their skin, nor their gender, but at a time in this country when some men seem to feel safe in disparaging women, we think it’s a good idea to have fewer men in positions of power. That means women need to run for office.

But they need the support of men to be successful, and men need to understand the importance of electing women.

One could argue that what we just said flies in the face of our earlier quote from Dr. King and on the surface, it could seem so. But too many powerful men seem to have little character. Rather, they seem to feel empowered to pretty much do what they want vis-a-vis women. How many men have been outed as sexual harassers just during the past year? How many women have been so outed? The disparity is glaring. Glenn Close’s character in “Fatal Attraction” was fictional, as was Demi Moore’s in “Disclosure.”

But what we’ve learned in the past 12 months often sounds like it must be fiction. The problem is, it isn’t.

We believe that having more women in positions of power — locally, state-wide and on the national scene — can make things better, and not just for women. It’s important, and healthy, for men to learn the downside — to them, too — of harassment. The downside of assault should be obvious, but often men forget to see it before they act. Women in power will be able to take some action, including appointing judges who understand that everyone deserves respect. And that, guys, includes women, in case you tend to forget.

We don’t ask you to vote for someone simply because she is a woman, but we do ask men not to discount a female candidate as, we are afraid, some still do. It is powerful men who have brought this country to the point at which we find ourselves — at odds, on one level or another, with much of the world, and facing the prospect of a judiciary that could strip women of some of their hard-earned rights — so maybe it’s time we give more women a chance.