It’s 2020, and, for women, there is a lot to be grateful for. More women are involved in politics than ever before, with 127 women currently holding seats in the United States Congress. Thirty-seven of the companies on this year’s Fortune 500 are led by female CEOs, according to Forbes.com.
Four years ago, Hillary Clinton was the first female nominee for a major political party running for President. And now we look to Kamala Harris — the first Black woman and the first South Asian woman on a major party ticket.
As we recognize the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women finally being granted the right to vote, we have a lot to celebrate. It’s clear that women in this country have come a long way.
You see women not only rising the ranks of success in all arenas, from politics to corporate America to professional sports, science, and beyond, but you also see women breaking barriers and working to shatter that infamous glass ceiling.
Equally important, you see women supporting women, raising their voices, and fighting for their rights and the rights of women and girls around the world.
But as we stand up for a better future and we, as women, support the female leaders in this country, it’s essential to be sure we are backing women whose values align with our own.
Simply because an influential person happens to be a woman cannot be reason enough to offer them our blind support. Supporting other women is important, dare we say essential, for women to achieve success and influence in this world. But we cannot forget our own power, and we must remain consistently picky and thorough in who we choose to stand behind.
There is risk associated with romanticizing every woman in power and not recognizing that they, too, have faults, and they also make mistakes.
There’s danger in failing to get educated on female leaders and understanding what their backgrounds, their experiences, their policy positions, and their values say about them as leaders. Yes, there is a special place in hell for women who do not support other women, as Madeleine Albright famously said. But we must still put in the work to ensure we’re supporting female leaders we genuinely respect.
Take, for example, María Milagros Charbonier-Laureano (Charbonier), aka “Tata,” a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. On the surface, having a woman in power as a Congress member in Puerto Rico is a huge victory for women everywhere. Having a Latina woman elected to a position of power is a win worthy of support from other women. Right?
In this case, absolutely not. Just because Tata Charbonier is a female leader does not deem her deserving of our blind support, because as it turns out, this figure is quite divisive.
Charbonier is known for her religion-heavy rhetoric and far-right positions on LGBTQ+ rights. She has preached drastically conservative views, and she co-authored the island’s new civil code, which scales back some rights for women and disenfranchised communities. She has attempted to block same-sex marriage and has compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality.
Similarly, this past August, a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico returned a 13-count indictment against Tata Charbonier, along with her husband, her son, and her assistant, for their alleged participation in a years-long theft, bribery, and kickback conspiracy.
She is being investigated for committing wire fraud, receiving kickbacks, and obstructing justice for destroying data on her cell phone relating to this investigation into her illegal activities.
According to acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, “when elected officials betray the people’s trust in order to enrich themselves at the public’s expense, the Justice Department will hold them accountable.” Yes, Tata Charbonier is a female leader with power and influence. No, she does not necessarily deserve blind support from other women simply because she is also a woman.
For another example to help us ponder the dilemma of romanticizing all women in power, we need to look no further than the U.S. Supreme Court.
The recent appointment of Amy Coney Barrett has undoubtedly caused a lot of discussion and opposing viewpoints, particularly among women.
We’re not even talking about whether or not it was constitutional for a supreme court justice to be nominated and confirmed by the current administration just days before election day, especially considering that most Americans believe that voters should decide who makes the next appointment to the court.
The more significant source of division and controversy surrounding Barrett’s appointment has to do with her as a person.
The Trump administration has worked hard to frame Amy Coney Barrett as a worthy successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But where RBG was a champion for women’s rights and a powerful role model to women and young girls everywhere, Barrett has displayed a far more conservative voting record on cases covering abortion, gun rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and discrimination.
The argument for why women should support Barrett is outrageous: because she is a woman.
As women, we are supposed to support Barrett because she also has a uterus, and she is a mother of seven children, who she raised while also working as a lawyer, professor of law, and Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge.
Her supporters argue that because she is the first mother of school-aged children to become a Supreme Court Justice and because she has a child with special needs, she is worthy of support from other women, and she will bring a valuable perspective to the High Court.
Perhaps she will, perhaps she won’t.
But is the mere fact that Barrett is a woman with children enough to make her worthy of our blind support?
Of course, women can and should support Barrett if they agree with her policies. Yes, women can support her if they are impressed by her professional experiences and legal track record. But just because she is a woman with children? It’s simply not a good enough reason to blindly have her back, especially when you consider her stance on key policies that could impact women’s rights, abortion laws, and healthcare for years to come.
Throughout her confirmation hearings, Barrett refused to say whether she would overturn Roe v. Wade and if she would uphold access to safe abortion, birth control, or fertility treatment. There is so much more on the line for women across the country.
Paid maternity leave, equal pay, voting rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and reproductive rights are all on the line. While Barrett may, in fact, be a woman, her ability to negatively influence the rights of other women coast to coast is not something any of us should overlook or take lightly. It should serve as a wake-up call to women everywhere.
Yes, women supporting women can be beneficial to help female leaders rise in this country. Supporting other women is essential if we want to ensure that women have equal opportunities to succeed in America. But there is a danger in romanticizing every woman in power simply because she has an influential position or status.
We must still be extremely picky in who we support based on their policies, opinions, actions, and character, not simply their influence or gender. And with so much on the line, the support of women will be more important than ever.