Probing of reasons for the dearth of female politicians
Decrying the continued dearth of female politicians, Barnes probes some of the sociological and psychological differences between men and women in twentieth-century America. In the process, she reveals some of the challenges she has faced because of her gender and the ways she has addressed those issues. She returns to this topic at the end of the interview.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Anne Barnes, January 30, 1989. Interview C-0049. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
We still have not nearly the numbers of women elected to positions in this state as we should have. That takes a lot of encouragement for women. Politics is tough. Campaigning is tough. It's expensive. People need to have some kind of organization behind them that will help with the expenses of the campaign. The Caucus does that. Women need a support group. When you go out in politics, it's a scary experience sometimes when it's your first time out, or you haven't been around it enough to know that it's tough. There's a need to stick together and feel that kind of support organization behind you. Women need more encouragement to run for office, need more support once we get there. It's not easy running for office, and I think that women tend to be more susceptible to wanting to please, wanting to be popular. It's a part of our culture, at least for women my age. Maybe that's becoming less and less true, and I don't know if that's good or bad, but it's important to care about pleasing. All of that's important. But in politics you can't please everybody, and you have to be ready to take unpopular positions without it getting at you personally, without it being destructive to your own inner ego. It takes a lot of ego to be in politics. It's hard to be humble in politics because you're forced all the time to not be. You have to appear to be strong. You have to appear, in order to
get elected, you have to appear to have things pretty well under control. And the truth is that you may not have it under control at all, because if you retain your sensitivity, you're going to be torn inside by these issues. But you don't want insensitive people to be elected. You don't want callous people to be elected. So it's tedious to balance between a personal inner sensitivity and the ego that it takes, or this appearance of strength that it takes, and the appearance of not being affected by whatever is being thrown at you and still maintain the sensitivity which you think the people really want you to have to the issues. That's a tough place. That is a tough balance to get to. I can remember early on when I was on the Board of Commissioners, having to deal with that, having an issue that I just had to deal with it. Was I going to be intimidated by an angry public or was I going to retain, was I going to be strong enough not to be intimidated, but still retain the sensitivity to deal fairly and even-handedly with people on both sides of the issue? Because I have felt intimidated. When you're in a public hearing where there's a lot of emotion and where you're being, publicly a lot of things are being said that seem to be personal attacks on your integrity or on your judgment. That's tough, and I think maybe in our culture men have been a little better prepared to deal with those, with that kind of adversity. I remember a story once, I heard in a workshop or in a speech, the example being that of a small boy who had been assigned a task that became too difficult, and he felt he could not accomplish it. Approached his father, who said to him, "Oh son, you can do
it. I will show you how." And a small girl, facing the same situation, saying "Daddy, I can't do it." Daddy would take her on his lap and say, "Don't worry about it, honey, I will do it for you." That kind of early culture there, I hope that that is not as true as it was when I was a child because it teaches you to have someone else to do it for you, or it teaches you that it will be okay if you can't handle it yourself. There will always be help there, and that's tough to overcome. So that's sort of the situation I think many women feel themselves in when they want to get into politics. "Can I handle this myself? Can I do this?" And that's tough to come out forward and do.