Donald Trump Jr. wants you to know that newly-elected Republican Rep. Karen Handel is a woman.
It’s unclear exactly what Trump was trying to say with this tweet, given that “Rep” generally refers to representative in American politics, and the first woman to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives was Democrat Florence Reville Gibbs, who served from 1939 to 1941. Perhaps he meant Republican? Perhaps we’ll never know.
What is clear is that Trump Jr. is frustrated that Handel is not being celebrated as a feminist glass-ceiling breaker simply for being a woman.
Handel herself made a point to note that she is the first Republican woman Georgia is sending to Congress. At the end of her acceptance speech, she said, to large cheers: “Tomorrow the real work will begin, the hard work of governing and doing that in a civil responsible way that is in the best interest of every Georgian, every sixth district citizen, and every citizen of the United States of America as we prepare to send Georgia’s first Republican woman to Congress.”
It’s certainly admirable to see the Republican party sending more women to Congress, given that the party has an even more dismal gender gap than the Democrats do. But as Jennifer Wright argued for Harper’s Bazaar in May: “Feminism doesn’t mean liking every stupid woman you meet.”
“Now, in general, if the woman you dislike is not actively making your life worse, it’s probably best to reserve judgment,” Wright wrote. “But if women are opposed to women’s rights? If they’re cheerfully complacent with sexual harassment or scaling back women’s opportunities? If they’re actively going to make life hard work for you and others like you? Speak the fuck out. Don’t worry about seeming polite. Just worry about speaking out.”
In that same vein, being a woman does not automatically make you good for womankind ― especially if your woman-y career has been dedicated to making life harder and worse for lots of women.
Handel supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, calling the ACA the “single biggest intrusion into the lives of Americans in decades.”
She is staunchly anti-abortion.
She has a history of supporting strict Voter-ID laws that disproportionately target people of color.
She said that she does not support a “livable wage.” (Women are more likely to be employed in low-wage jobs. A 2016 Oxfam report found that of the 23.5 million people working low-wage jobs in the United States, 19 million are women.)
When Handel was Senior VP for Policy at the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure, she was a key figure pushing the organization to cut off $700,000 in grant funding for breast exams and other breast cancer-related services at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Yes, Handel is a woman (hooray!), but her track record and stated policy priorities do not inspire much confidence that she’ll do anything to advance rights and opportunities for other women. A glass ceiling broken is only worth celebrating if it means something for more than the individual smashing it.
CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect that Planned Parenthood refers patients out for mammography but does not itself provide them to patients as originally reported.