Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Majority Rules: North Carolina’s War on Women

Following the mid-term elections in 2010, Republicans reclaimed the state legislature for the first time in over 100 years.  In the previous session, the North Carolina General Assembly had a Democratic majority in both houses, which it conceded to Republican lawmakers during the height of the Tea Party movement.  On the eve of the election, current N.C. House Majority Leader Paul Stam told reporters, “[Republicans] are going to govern in a different way.”  And he meant it. 

In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly was tasked with redistricting, a responsibility bestowed to the state legislature following each decennial census to respond to population changes and ensure equal representation.  While the new maps may include additional districts to reflect North Carolina’s growing population, they certainly do not ensure “equal representation” for women in our state. 

The Republican majority’s maps place many Democratic women representatives in precarious, if not impossible, districts, leading many to question GOP lawmakers’ motives.  For example, of the 22 Democratic women currently serving in the 120-member N.C. House of Representatives, eight were double-bunked with other Democratic members and four were placed in significantly more Republican districts.  Women are already grossly underrepresented in the General Assembly, thus making attacks on Democratic women from the Republican party, both in North Carolina and across the country, harder to ignore. 

Is this an instance where a little gridlock might have served the greater interest (or at least, the interest of women)?  If Republicans did not control both chambers, would we see similar maps?  Had there been split control of the legislature, likely increasing gridlock, I do not think we would see the same legislative maps that so pointedly target Democratic women representatives.  The GOP asserts that the maps have nothing to do with gender warfare, and this is instead “all about politics.” I’m not sure what to garner from this defense.  Of course it’s political—isn’t it political to root out women from the democratic process? 


  1. Is there any indication that Republicans did this to target women versus, say, to target Democrats? Are there a lot more Democratic women who have to compete with other members to save their seats than Democratic men? And the Republicans certainly aren't trying to boot out Republican women, right? It seems to me that this is just a classic case of political gerrymandering, not necessarily gender bias. There are, of course, other legislative actions taken by the current General Assembly that might lead one to think there is a war on women, but for me its hard to see redistricting as an extension of that. I think the Republicans could care less whether they are crowding out Democratic men or Democratic women--they just want to crowd out Democrats.

  2. To your point, it is certainly hard to prove that the new redistricting maps specifically target women. However, some of the new district lines were drawn in such a specious manner that it is hard not to see an alternative motive behind the maps. For instance, in Rep. Jennifer Weiss' district (NC, H-35) they drew the lines straight through her neighborhood, even split a precinct, so that she would be in a Republican district. Reps. Maggie Jeffus and Pricey Harrison were also double-bunked, forcing 10-term House member Jeffus to bow out of the race. Half of the female representatives in the Senate have been double-bunked. Half. Thus, while I agree that Republicans want to crowd out Democrats, it appears that in so doing, Republicans have targeted women and black voters specifically, where possible.