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Business Casual: What's Next, Guys?

So it’s time to figure out what happens now. Post-election, the skeptics were – well, skeptical ­– while the most hopeful observers seemed to hint at a new era of good feeling. Nice thought, but Googling all the verses to “Kumbaya” and making cookies for the Virtual Feel-Good Bake Sale can only take you so far. Next up: the hard part.

For national lawmakers, the lessons seem pretty clear, starting with Get Along, Get Busy, Get Something Done.

For Georgia’s lawmakers, the lessons are a little more nuanced. There was no big party shift. Far from it. Republicans had a majority going into the election and now have an even bigger one. But is that a mandate for Business As Usual? I don’t think so.

We still have this “women’s problem” that is actually everybody’s problem and this closely related “science problem.” 

Lawmakers in Washington and especially in statehouses throughout the country are going to have to confront more and more women’s issues and issues that women care about (healthcare, reproductive rights, gender equality, education – and, yes, the economy). There will be more science-related issues (climate change, environmental protection, water shortages, energy) that people who passed high school biology care about.

It’s going to take more than ignorance disguised as righteousness to address these effectively.

Two of the most resounding defeats in the country were handed to Missouri’s Republican Congressman Todd Akin and Indiana’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, whose combined views on women and violence toward women would have been outdated in the Middle Ages and whose views on science would be laughable if they weren’t so appalling.

You remember Akin’s charming little treatise on rape, which he clearly regards as a trifling matter, and female anatomy, about which he seems to be completely in the dark – witness his statement that women rarely get pregnant after rape because the female body has ways of “trying to shut that whole thing down” and, of course, his ideas on “legitimate” rape. 

Mourdock is the sage who believes women should regard pregnancies that result from rape as “a gift from God.” 

In Georgia, Rep. Doug McKillip, chief sponsor of the misguided bill, HB 954, that shortened the time available to women to end a pregnancy legally – and originally attempted to prohibit abortions for medically futile pregnancies – was defeated in the Republican primary last summer. (Unfortunately, Republican Rep. Terry England, from Auburn, who, on the floor of the house, famously compared women to pigs and cows, easily won re-election.)

Tenth District U.S. Congressman Paul Broun, from Athens, a Republican who has declared himself a staunch foe of evolution – “lies, straight from the pit of hell,” are the words he chose – ran unopposed, but his race produced nearly 4,000 write-in votes for Charles Darwin. (Special note for collectors of confounding ironies: Broun is a physician and a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.)

It’s probably worth mentioning that Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, lost in several key voter categories – among them, single women.

This is a real wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moment, gents. The world is becoming less male-centric, more inclusive. Why not explore another point of view?

I’m not suggesting that the guys need to book pedicures or find shopping companions who tell them those Dockers don’t really make their rear ends look big.

But maybe a little less dogma and a little more conversation would be helpful. It may be time for some male lawmakers to venture outside the convenient little bubble in which they have allowed themselves to be encased.

And you know what? I think women office-holders and women voters should meet the guys halfway. Everybody could take a deep breath and start listening. Exchange some ideas, find some common ground – even if it’s hard.

Holding fast to views that haven’t changed much since June Cleaver wore high heels with her apron is not the best way to solve 21st-century problems and serve constituents with real-world concerns.

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