Captain Marvel and the “Year of the Woman”

September 21, 2018


The promotions have already started for Captain Marvel, a live-action film featuring the fictional female superhero from Marvel Comics that will be released in March.

Apparently, the smashing popularity of the Wonder Woman blockbuster last year convinced movie moguls a female superhero can, indeed, carry a movie by herself. The producers have even cast Brie Larson, a feminist voice and an advocate for the #MeToo movement, as Carol Danvers—a.k.a. Captain Marvel. Larson won a Best Actress Oscar for 2015’s Room. In her civilian identity as an Air Force pilot fighting for equal pay for equal work, Danvers is also a top-notch espionage agent, a hand-to-hand fighter, and a crack shot. When Danvers transforms into Captain Marvel, she “possesses superhuman strength and durability, can fly at roughly six times the speed of sound, retains her sixth sense, and can discharge explosive blasts of radiant energy, which she fires from her fingertips.”

Ok, then!

Unfortunately, Captain Marvel is not seeking political office this fall, where her superhero powers could be put to marvelous use on the local, state, and national level. But it’s looking like 2018 will be the “Year of the Woman,” anyway, shattering the previous record, set in 1992, of women elected to office following Anita Hill’s testimony during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.

A recent analysis by NBC News says Americans could elect more than 100 women to the U.S. House this fall for the first time in history. This would include some 30 to 40 new women, and might include S.C. state Rep. Katie Arrington, who beat incumbent Congressman and former governor Mark Sanford a few months ago in the state’s Republican primary. She faces off against Democrat Joe Cunningham in the First Congressional District race in November.

If Arrington prevails, she will be the first woman to represent South Carolina in Congress since 1993. You read that right: for the past 25 years, the S.C. delegation to the U.S. Congress has been exclusively male.

What’s powering this avalanche of female candidates in 2018? Female backlash to Donald Trump’s election in 2016, say the experts, along with reverberations from the #MeToo movement.

Some 239 women are still in the running for U.S. House seats in the general election November 6. Twenty-three women are in the running for U.S. Senate seats in 21 states. This includes Arizona, which will send a woman to the Senate for the first time ever as Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) battles Rep. Martha McSally (R) for the seat now held by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake.

Sixteen women in 36 states are in the running for governorships, as well as 26 women running for lieutenant governorships. Some 2,669 women in 39 states are running for seats in their state legislatures.

Women, many as first-time candidates (predominantly running as Democrats), have not just been seeking office this year. They have been winning. That’s a good thing because women currently hold just 20 percent of seats in the U.S. Senate and House combined.

But 51 percent of the U.S. population is female. Who is representing our interests in Washington?

Finally, let’s hope South Carolina is among the states that will see an influx of women legislators to our State House next year. Currently in South Carolina, of the 46 seats in the S.C. Senate, just four are held by women, or 8.7 percent. Of the 124 seats in the S.C. House of Representatives, only 23 are held by women, or 18.5 percent.

So, in 2018, South Carolina ranks 44th among the 50 state legislatures in the number of female members.

What would Captain Marvel say? More to the point, what would she do?

Jan Collins 2021-circle-crop

Jan Collins is a Columbia, South Carolina-based journalist, editor, and author. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard and former Congressional Fellow in Washington, D. C., she is the coauthor of Next Steps: A Practical Guide to Planning for the Best Half of Your Life (Quill Driver Books, 2009).