I’m wondering if some kind of exotic spamware has invaded email@example.com just days after my debut column. Not because of what I got, but because of what I didn’t get.
Best-hoagie-joint tips flooded my inbox. Pitches, too, from people running for office in races that could make headlines next fall in the politically charged collar counties around Philadelphia. A middle school science teacher even asked if I was the kid she taught. Miss Ash, if you’re reading again today, the answer is yes.
There were notes from guys like Mark in Tokyo by way of Lansdowne; Bob the Republican who has grown hostile to both political parties; and Doctor John (not the Big Easy one), who once saw the Steve Miller Band at the Tower Theater.
But one demographic was starkly absent from my inbox — a group I liken to the Navy SEALS of modern suburban life.
I’m talking about women not yet near retirement age. Women who are just trying to make it through the day. Who are probably working harder and longer than their parents did, and with a less certain future than many might have imagined. Women managing jobs, households, kids, their sanity.
I know you’re out there. I see you haggling on Facebook groups for free or used kid gear and furniture. You fish for tips on how to finesse a job promotion or find a cool, cheap vacation. But you don’t read news that’s affecting your lives.
In a #MeToo age, it’s as though your hashtag should be #MeNeither.
Where are the women?
A form of this question was on display Tuesday night on the floor of the state House of Representatives, as the male-dominated legislative body in Harrisburg held no hearings of any kind before pushing through a controversial abortion bill that Gov. Wolf has vowed to veto.
The bill was birthed by the GOP-led Senate, another bastion of male power. The proposal would largely ban abortions starting at 20 weeks in Pennsylvania. That’s around the same time that medical tests reveal if a fetus has potentially fatal abnormalities.
The 121-70 vote was unsurprising. So was the floor debate. But the parade of politicians offered a porthole into how men, particularly those from small-town or rural areas, have co-opted policymaking in a state whose nearly 13 million residents are overwhelmingly urban or suburban.
Some of the men quoted the Bible. Other men spoke adoringly of their wives, children, or grandchildren. Butler County’s Daryl Metcalfe, a conservative flame-thrower who rather flamboyantly proclaimed himself a heterosexual a week earlier, talked affectionately about his own pregnant daughter’s womb.
“Anybody who doesn’t support Senate Bill 3,” Metcalfe said, “is heartless.”
A pair of suburban Philly newbies caught my attention. Both had won their posts in super-tight races against Republicans. Both were women — in seats held until recently by men.
“I rise for all of the women of Pennsylvania who cannot stand here today, as I have the privilege to,” said Rep. Carolyn Comitta, a Democrat and former mayor of West Chester. She squeaked into office in 2016 after a cliffhanger recount.
Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky of Swarthmore swept into office in 2015 against an endorsed Republican man in the longtime heart of GOP power in Delaware County. When she took her turn at House microphone Tuesday, she spoke of women in her county who had experienced prenatal heartbreak.
It was Comitta, though, who conveyed an invisible outrage.
“I find it quite frankly shocking that a legislative body comprised largely of men would bring this measure to the floor of the House without a single hearing prior to a vote,” she said. “What are we afraid of learning?”
To the ladies not in my inbox, I’d like to ask the same question.