Yesterday, many of us rushed to the polls to vote in the Super Tuesday primaries and help choose our party’s nominee — the democratic process in action. However, yesterday was also the start of something else, a time that is quite dear to us at SheKnows: Women’s History Month. And to kick it off in style, we decided to talk to the women who are not only making history but paving the way for the future.
We hosted a Town Hall with three Republican congressional representatives: Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA). Moderator Julie Ross Godar, executive editorial director for SheKnows and BlogHer, spoke to the congresswomen about the leading issues women care about today.
These are also important issues for the GOP. As McMorris Rodgers wrote on SheKnows yesterday, “Republican women are committed to a culture of yes, a culture that tells young women that they can — and should — pursue their version of the American Dream.”
This sentiment was echoed throughout the Town Hall as the representatives answered questions from the SheKnows community on bipartisanship, equal pay, health care, national security, poverty, the economy and feminism. Despite the diversity of topics, there was one thing that the representatives kept coming back to: the importance of mentoring women to take on positions of leadership.
Here’s what these three Republican legislators want American women to know.
When asked about Trump’s history of sexist remarks, including a tweet implying sexual assault in the military is inevitable, McMorris Rodgers shook her head and asserted, “Across the board, absolutely, this is wrong. It’s inappropriate.” She went on to say, “I believe the Republican Party – and what I want as an elected official – is to present a positive and opportunity message to the country. Not putting people down and not having all these negative comments on people, but focusing on what every person has to offer.” McMorris Rodgers added, “I want my children – and I want everyone in this country – to have those same opportunities to be seen for not where they come from but empowered by what they can become.”
Noem believes that part of the reason voters are angry is because of divisive politics and candidates often overpromise during elections without following through once elected. And that might be why Donald Trump had such an overwhelming success during the Super Tuesday primaries. “I think [Trump] has tapped into emotions and the frustration, and he’s obviously from outside of the political system. People are thinking they need someone new and fresh to try and tackle the challenges,” Noem said.
All the congresswomen expressed the importance of encouraging, inspiring and mentoring the next generation of women to follow in their political path. Walters said, “As a member of Congress, part of my duty and role is to try and mentor young women to get them involved in the process. I think sometimes women think that they can’t do it all, and I’m here to say you can do it all. You may not be able to do it all at once, but you can do it all.”
Each of the congresswomen shared stories about their own struggles to balance being a mother and an elected official. They had men and women telling them they shouldn’t run because they were mothers, to which Walters replied, to much applause, “I didn’t listen to them. I just ran anyway.” Her secret weapon was the support of her husband and children. He took care of the kids while she had to travel, and the kids learned to step up and be more independent, she said.
Noem also argued the importance of having the perspective of working mothers in Congress in order to have different viewpoints around the policy-making tables. “Women a lot of times aren’t quite sure they have all the necessary skills to do a job, and that’s why we need to be more aggressive about asking them to do those jobs. We need to go find people and say, 'We need you in Congress. We need you to do this because your perspective is what helps us get better policies and better laws,'” Noem said.
Godar told the congresswomen about the SheKnows F-word initiative that explores what feminism means to our community, and asked for their own opinions on the word. She discovered that the representatives have strong feelings about feminism, too. When asked, Noem laughed and remarked, “I love that the new F-word is feminism!” Her fellow congresswomen agreed.
“I love the idea of feminism representing an opportunity for every woman to pursue her dreams, reach her full potential, and be a risk taker. That is what it represents to me," McMorris Rodgers added.
“I consider myself a feminist because I don’t believe that anyone is better than anyone else. I believe that I am just equal to everyone else,” Walters said.
If you missed the livestream, you can still watch the event in full below and join the conversation on Twitter with #HERStory.
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