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Women Won This Election: The End of 'Mad Men' Politics

11/07/2012 07:17 pm ET | Updated Jan 07, 2013

Women were big winners in this election, prompting the questions: Are we witnessing the end of the "Mad Men" reign in politics and social issues? Is the dominance of white, male voters in this country finally history? And is her-story finally being written and told?

One of my favorite Facebook election night posts was the Photoshopped image of a smiling Barack Obama on the phone with the imagined caption: "Next time, don't piss off women voters!"

Another text from a political activist read: "If half of the U.S. Congress were women, we wouldn't still be debating reproductive rights."

One of my New York friends emailed me after Obama won: "This sends a strong message that the white, male, Christian Right no longer represents the heart and soul of the American people."

My friend is correct for most of our country, though many of the Southern red states on last night's electoral map appear to be a bastion of patriarchal pride and resistance to granting women control over their reproductive health.

But as Republican Susan Collins notes, times are changing, and "Republicans cannot win with just rural, white voters."

What will Republicans do, given the changing demographics and the ascendency of women in politics? Will they recognize that women don't want politicians demanding vaginal probes, ending Planned Parenthood and dismantling abortion clinics state-by-state?

Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, told the New York Times: "There will be some kind of war" with more progressive Republicans seeking more inclusion of Hispanics, blacks, younger voters and college-educated women. But these more far-sighted voices will be vehemently denounced by "party purists," or "priests."

It's striking that Murphy called out the Republicans by the name that most truthfully defines them -- "priests." Though little was made of it during his candidacy, Romney was a bishop in a Mormon priesthood that allows boys to become priests at age 12; but Mormon dogma forbids women that so-called God-given authority. Other faiths that, like Mormonism, mostly exclude women from priesthood or leadership positions are Catholics, Baptists and Muslims. Very few reporters, except PBS's Jim Lehrer, ever asked Romney about how his Mormon faith influenced his view of women and their rights or roles. And Romney was mum on most of his more patriarchal Mormon beliefs.

But now those questions will be asked as the patriarchs, both religious and political, consider their options for future power-sharing with women. In the Senate, an historic 20 female senators will ask those questions. On issues of reproductive health and abortion rights, the women who rose up to defeat the sexist Todd Aikins and Robert Mourdochs of the race, will challenge that Republican quest to control women's bodies. The gender gap of 18 percent in this election will insist that those who have too long held patriarchal sway, share that power -- or lose it.

In this historic 2012 election, if only men had voted -- as they did before 1920, when women got the vote -- Romney would have won. According to MSNBC, exit polls showed that Romney captured the male vote by 52% to Obama's 45%. Obama earned women's vote by 55 to Romney's 43 percent. Women made up 54% of this electorate. Add to this women's surging political voice, a strong coalition of African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders -- and demographics signal the end of white, male dominance in this country.

Mad Men and Political Priests, listen up! You've had your turn. Now, it's ours!

Brenda Peterson is the author of 17 books, including the recent memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind, which was named as a "Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year" by The Christian Science Monitor. Her new book is The Drowning World. www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com