I did not pop the champagne nor gather my female friends to celebrate women’s blast to power in the 2018 local and national elections. Big deal? It was long time coming. That Americans are still hung up on “breaking the glass ceiling” – in 2018! — points to the nation’s sadly antiquated impression of women’s place in the modern world.
“Are female candidates still unicorns, magical woodland creatures that rear their sparkly horns every couple of decades?” Amy Chozick asks in her opinion piece in the New York Times, titled “Down With the Year of the Woman.”
Quoting Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, Chozick writes, “It’s great to celebrate and energize people around women running, but we need to normalize, not exceptionalize it.”
I find this new version of women’s liberation so refreshing. For a female politician to attribute her success to chromosomal lottery rather than her own merits is self-condescending.
Nevertheless, women’s triumph in the last elections is still news, by virtue of historic numbers that will change the political landscape. Predictably, this will rank No. 1 in every media outlet’s yearend review.
On Guam, however, having the first elected female governor may be a political novelty but it’s not a cultural anomaly. Ancient Chamorro women were way ahead of the western feminists in the 18th and 19th centuries. Our cover story tackles the history of Guam’s matrilineal system in which gender roles were balanced equitably so that men and women shared power and responsibility.
Even today, women in power are not “unicorns” on Guam. Seeing them at the decision-making seats is a norm. While Lou Leon Guerrero, president (on leave) of the Bank of Guam, has become Guam’s first female elected governor, the judicial branch already has women donning the black robe and pounding the gavel: Chief Justice Katherine Maraman, Superior Court judges Anita Sukola (who both received more than 80 percent retention votes) and Maria Teresa Cenzon. Seated in the federal court is Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood.
The incumbent attorney general is Elizabeth Barret-Anderson and the incumbent longtime delegate to Congress is Madeleine Bordallo. The elections of Leevin Camacho to the AG’s Office and Mike San Nicolas to the delegate seat cater to gender equilibrium.
The 34th Guam Legislature has five women senators — Speaker Therese Terlaje, Sens. Mary Torres, Regine Biscoe-Lee, Telena Nelson and Luisa Muna. The Nov. 6 elections have added five more to the 35th Legislature — Tina Muna Barnes, Sabina Perez, Kelly Marsh, Telo Taitague and Amanda Shelton.
On the military side, the Joint Region Marianas is led by Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, who replaced Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar last year.
Even the Fourth Branch is the women’s turf. Every newsroom on Guam is led by a female publisher or editor. Rindraty Limtiaco (PDN); Mindy Aguon and Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno (Guam Daily Post); Maureen Maratita and Meghan Hickey (Glimpses Publications); Sabrina Matanane-Salas (KUAM); Patti Arroyo and Andrea Pellacani (K57); and Janela Carrera (PNC). And this publication. A quota for men might be in order.
“Breaking the glass ceiling” is a cliché that is as obsolete as the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, which has outlived its mission. The early waves of true feminism have since opened up economic and political opportunities for everyone — for every gender — to tap. (Remember that being openly gay did not bar Public Auditor and former Speaker Benjamin Cruz and Lt. Governor-elect Josh Tenorio from getting elected.)
The politically victorious female politicians got elected into offices not because they are women, but because Guam voters presumably judged them on their credentials and believed they are right people for the jobs they sought.
Next year, the governor’s office and the legislature’s session hall will be filled with the beat and rhythm of the stilettos. But they must remember that they were elected not to satisfy a womencentric agenda. They were elected to make sound policies, work on whatever foundation the outgoing governor, Eddie Calvo, said he has built, correct his administration’s mistakes and avoid its failures.
Their challenge is to make the island livable for all people of every gender on Guam. After all, gender spectrum keeps expanding as the LGTBQ keeps adding alphabets to their acronym. But that’s another story.
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Mar-Vic Cagurangan is the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Pacifis Island Times. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org