Oscars 2016: On gender diversity

According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences trivia, only one person has won a gender-bending Oscar: Linda Hunt as the male dwarf Billy Kwan in 1982’s The Year of Living Dangerously.

Guess that means Jared Leto, who won a supporting actor Oscar for playing Rayon in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, doesn’t count. So not even “liberal-leaning Hollywood” knows how to classify transgender roles? What do you do when a man plays a woman assigned as a man at birth? That is some complicated back story. We’re not talking about playing the opposite sex but playing someone who matches one’s birth-assigned gender and has gender dysphoria. Not gender-bending, mind-bending.

Would Eddie Redmayne break new ground if he takes home an Oscar for playing pioneer transgender woman Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl? Or would someone demand to see a birth certificate?

Nothing new under the sun, The Bard might say. Since Shakespearean days, actors have played opposite gender roles. In opera, “pants” roles are de rigueur for mezzos. What Redmayne, Leto and Hunt have been doing is simply acting.

Going forward, what if a transgender actor/actress were to be nominated in an acting category — Laverne Cox, for example. Or someone who has not undergone gender confirmation surgery “displaying” as one gender yet identifying as another — how would the academy handle that acting feat?

Perhaps one day all gender walls shall be blessedly decimated and the academy will be forced to stop segregating men and women into actor/actress categories. It could honor up to 10 nominees and crown just one winner, as in the best picture category. No matter how you slice it, these awards compare apples to oranges.

Such a transformation might actually shorten the awards show. There’s that.

POST-OSCARS UPDATE: Ha! Chris Rock mentioned this very thing in his monologue. Why segregate the sexes?!


Pre-Oscar potty: A photo dump of area facilities

Using public restrooms can certainly be a crapshoot. In my quest to quickly distinguish men’s from ladies’ lounges — or spotlight the creativity behind lavatory door design — here’s more signage I found clogging my phone.

Unfortunately, I forget where I shot this first pair. Based on the embedded info, it was around the time I reviewed “Forever Plaid” at Olney Theatre Center. So let’s call it that. (If my theater dates recall where we went out drinking afterward, that may provide a clue.)

Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz … why? (2013 Photo by Terry Byrne)

Penelope Cruz  is instantly recognizable … but who’s the guy (below)? Anybody? Looks like a young Paul Newman. Please let me know your theories in the comments.

If you had to choose someone emblematic to mark a restroom male or female, who would you choose?  Also curious: How is a user supposed to know that the guy isn’t intended to lure in the females, and vice versa?

Am I missing a joke here? So many questions … so few readers … so unlikely to get a response. (Is there an echo in here? That’s why I like bathrooms.)

Mystery guy at Olney Theatre Center

Mystery guy … who? This signage MAY be on the Olney Theatre Center’s men’s room door. I can’t remember. (2013 Photo by Terry Byrne)

Meanwhile, this sign in the stall at Smashburger in Fairfax, Va., earns a rave review.

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(2013 Photo by Terry Byrne)

And given this is Oscar nominations week, let’s shine the spotlight on the bathrooms at Bow Tie Cinemas in Reston, Va. Simple branding, symmetrical aesthetic … if they gave out Academy Awards for bathroom doors, this coulda been a contender.

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Donde esta el bano, por favor?

The lady or the tiger? Still wrestling with restroom doors

How about you? Seen any gems to share?

That’s what s/he said


pronounsAs a copy editor at USA TODAY, I was asked by our editor in chief last summer what I thought about the Pfc. Bradley/Chelsea Manning case.

Not so much what I thought about it, but whether I thought we should follow the lead of the Associated Press, which soon after Manning’s sentencing decided to start referring to Manning, a transgender who identifies as female but has not yet gone through any transitioning, as “she” and “her” instead of “he,” “his” and “him.”

This is what the USA TODAY style guide says about that:

transgender people

Transgender is an umbrella term that refers to people whose biological and gender identity or expression may not be the same. This can include preoperative, postoperative or non-operative transsexuals, female and male cross-dressers, drag queens or kings, female or male impersonators and intersex individuals.

If an individual prefers to be called transsexual, drag queen or king, intersex, etc., use that term.

When writing about a transgender person, use the name and personal pronouns that are consistent with the way the individual lives publicly.”


Chelsea, meet Bradley. Bradley, Chelsea.

Therein lies the catch for Manning: “… the way the individual lives publicly.” For the crimes of espionage, theft and fraud for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, Manning is serving 35 years at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas — an all-male prison. And the Army has denied Manning’s request for hormone therapy. As far as dressing male or female goes — aren’t prison jumpsuits fairly unisex (Orange Is the New Black)?

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox plays a transgender on TV (well … Netflix’ … in”Orange Is the New Black”), a role close to home.

If Manning has no opportunity to live publicly as a woman, how can we, the media (includes you), honor the request or apply an institutionalized style?

At the time, and on deadline no less, I suggested avoiding pronouns and writing around things — introducing the situation on first reference: “Pfc. Bradley Manning, who prefers to be known as Chelsea” then using only Manning on second reference. But that seems wimpy. The point of setting style is to be bold, even dictatorial. Besides, the name “Manning” leans male — unfortunate surname for a transgender woman.

And “writing around things,” I realize now, is the equivalent of sweeping things under the rug — precisely what society has done with pegs who don’t fit into precise holes. We ought to address this issue here and now. As much as human brains construct language, language can help to shape minds.

When the story broke in August, the media was vigorous in debating the issue, and many outlets took an immediate stand in allowing Manning to declare her own gender. We follow similar styles on name treatment: We strictly don’t use Jr. … well, that is, unless it’s required for clarity or a source insists, so it’s not so strict — and same with middle initials.

But if the media went around allowing anyone to declare which gender they identify with on a given day, without requiring precedent or proof, doesn’t that invite capriciousness and — horrors — inaccuracy?


An earlier photo of Bradley Manning. Could s/he have been given a more virile name?

The issue comes down to who is making the determination and whether this might be an extreme example of self-determination vs. predetermination. In other words, do we trust our eyes to recognize and make judgments about sexual dimorphism? Or do we trust the source to make a judgment for themselves? (Note the use of the singular “they.”)

Maybe — brilliant — remove the act of judging entirely. Introduce a new, non-judgmental word.

In Sweden, gender-equality activists are working to get ahead of the transgender curve by proposing a third, gender-neutral pronoun. (Although “hen” wouldn’t work in this country — leans female, and sexist, at that.)

In Nepal, the census recognizes a third gender, but doesn’t name it.

Another wordpress blog examines many options, attempts to consolidate all reasonable suggestions for epicene pronouns and explores how to make this linguistic transformation happen. But a related Facebook page has only 40 members as of this posting.


Carmen Carrera, from that RuPaul drag show.

Look — people have been discussing this not just since last summer, but since the mid-19th century. What’s the big hang-up? As more transgenders do the talk-show circuit or become household names, such as Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black), we realize: People are getting used to the idea. Let’s simplify the process with language.

Adopting new words and changing old patterns can feel daunting. So I’m not proposing inventing any new, weird-sounding pronouns, which would serve only to alienate. Rather, we could repurpose ones we already use and understand, just as body parts get transfigured.

Many men use the personal pronouns “she” and “her” to describe random inanimate objects, like ships and car engines. And oogenesistically speaking, we all start out as female. So let’s use “her” for both possessive pronouns and personal pronouns to describe gender, including those in the objective case. Men shouldn’t complain — they have been objectifying females for eons, plus “her” has the word “he” built in. This streamlines things significantly, eliminating not only “his” but also “him.” “Her” works both ways. You can even spell it he/r, kinda poetically aloof to sexism.

The new movie “Her” serves as my PR campaign. That tangle of 0’s and 1’s isn’t even human, yet a
man projects a gender — and much more — onto it.

Likewise, “she” will be the new “he.” I’d be willing to spell it “s/he” until it caught on and we abandoned the slash. Punctuation does add punch somehow.

Having lived so long with an androgynous name like Terry, I have enjoyed knowing that few can tell what I am by my writing alone. It has made for some interesting instant-messaging exchanges — they go from good-ol’-boy crass to suddenly polite and tender when my gender dawns on men.

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Joanne “Jo” Kathleen (fake middle name, borrowed from her grandmother) Rowling


Pamela Lyndon Travers

In the patriarchal publishing world, I think both P.L. Travers (Mary Poppins) and J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) tried to circumvent some sort of sexism by initially masking their gender — as if being female creates some drag on the sails of success. Is that where the term “drag” comes from? What’s it called when a woman “dresses as a man”? Normal, right?

The worlds both authors created spun on transformational magic — poof! We can change things with a flick of our hands.

My one regret in naming my daughters is that I didn’t bestow unisex names on them. But maybe boys’ and girls’ baby-name lists are taking care of this naturally, as dual-purpose names like Morgan, Andy, Alex and Sidney grow more popular. People can spell them however they choose, adding clues or not, branding their child from Day One with arbitrary name baggage.

So this campaign is my new baby.

Presenting … h/ers and s/hes. Poof! There s/he is.

Hers and Hers towels

Hers and Hers towels


Where is “Sandy?” on the list of popular baby names? (mommytongue.com)

I've got this language thing down pat.

I’ve got this language thing down pat.

The lady or the tiger? Still wrestling with restroom doors

A seasonal update on the universal struggle to differentiate which public restroom is meant for you. Ever find the signage be-which-ing?

Spied these at the Applebee’s in Fair Lakes (Va.)



An idea obviously concocted by a man. Why are the women always the witches (rhymes with …)?!?!?

For more on this conundrum, see my previous post: “Donde esta el bano, por favor?”

And if you see any interesting men’s/ladies’ room signs across the country, please share them with me. I will compile them and credit you in a future post.

Donde esta el bano, por favor?

Putting aside my obsession with what goes on inside men’s rooms (See “The Daily Journal Urinal: Who knew?), I’m freshly fixated on how owners of establishments, typically bars, seem to go out of their way to disguise restrooms. It’s enough of a challenge to navigate one’s way to the potty after American-style partying, but having to puzzle out which door is for men and which is for women (The Lady or the Tiger?) seems a dangerous hurdle in emergencies.

Is this a sign that strict lines of gender matter less and less in modern society and that it wouldn’t much matter if we chose the wrong door?

These recent examples go way past Damas y Caballeros. If you enjoy these, please send me yours, so I can compile them. Maybe I’ll even sign up for Pinterest for this.

Starting with the highly judgmental World of Beer (this shot was taken in Evanston, Ill., but they’re the same in Arlington, Va.). They also have those machines on the wall that you stick your legs through and they vacuum-pressure things dry and shut — at least I THINK that’s what those machines are for.


What language even is this? Greek to me. Photo by Terry Byrne, 2013

At Piero’s Corner, an Italian restaurant anchoring Fairfax, Va.’s Main Street, these made me LOL. Go ahead, read them aloud:

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Photo by Terry Byrne, 2013

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Photo by Terry Byrne, 2013

The dignified Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub in Shirlington, Va., caters to linguists. Luckily they come with translations, if you can decipher the script after one too many Black & Tans.

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Photo by Terry Byrne, 2013


Photo by Terry Byrne, 2013

Finally, these are clearly labeled, but I wasn’t sure what to make of the preponderance of ants near the ladies’ room at the Artisphere in Rosslyn, Va. Is it because women are sweeter and they’re following the sugar trail, or are men’s rooms too toxic even for insects? Perhaps the buggy décor simply helps cut down on lines, weeding out the squeamish.

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Somebody call sanitation, the ladies’ room is crawling with ants! Photo by Terry Byrne, 2013

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Photo by Terry Byrne, 2013

The Daily Urinal Journal: Who knew?

urinals PLAY

Exploiting a new niche market: A veritable pee palace!

So what ELSE has been going on in men’s restrooms all these years I’m not privy to?!

It has come to my attention that at my favorite Mexican restaurant in Reston the current edition of USA TODAY is displayed in a colorful array above the urinals.

This poses many interesting questions: What did you THINK men were busy looking at while they went? Do they fight for the urinal beneath the sports section? Is that sexist of me? How do they turn the pages? Will the papered walls one day be replaced by iPad screens, or will men’s rooms be the final (edition) bastion of print journalism?

I’m ever intrigued how the world plays out differently for men vs. women, but it blows my mind I’ve never been let in on this boys’ club secret. And in downtown D.C., my husband informs me, The Washington Post has dibs at every self-respecting Irish pub washroom. After several Harps or Guinnesses, I’d imagine, men could consume a lot of news in relief. Women, at best, get advertisements, crisis-center hotlines or lovesick graffiti inside their stalls, while men are soaking up a FREE news stream?!

It’s a wonder there aren’t longer lines to get in.

Anyone who has ever lived with a man knows that a newspaper and the john go hand in hand. We even refer to the “men’s room” at home as the “library.” Moreso now, since laptops and smartphones have made access within the facilities more facile.

Still, I can’t help but think media companies, fighting to keep from going down the drain, haven’t somehow capitalized on this fecund opportunity — the last-standing outpost to the newsstand. Could prove a gold(en) mine. All those averted eyeballs, looking for something respectful to do.

I’ll humbly volunteer to do more market research.


A ‘salute’ to women’s power over men?

The secret’s out, ladies.

A barrage of “Betrayus” news has blown our cover. Now everyone will know that if you want to bring even a good, powerful man down, just show him a little whoopee-ass.

It’s an age-old ploy. You see it in every spy movie. Only a sexy Russian agent can get the goods on the hunky, slippery, non-communicative leading man.

Women know deep-down that every man has his weakness, deep down. And the armor always comes off by wielding that same weapon: sex.

Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs.

I was an “other woman.” Never intended to be, but I was. I was raised better, but I did that, overstepped boundaries of decency. It was a time in my life when I felt powerless, rejected by a man I loved, so I transformed into a cha-chink-whirrrr-beep-beep-hacha-mama with one secret mission (secret even to myself): to exact revenge upon the male race.

It seems there are basically two seriously damaging sexual scenarios. The first, which I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about, is rape — in which one twisted, sadistic monster abuses someone perceived as less powerful. A survivor of rape can spend a lifetime recovering, reclaiming lost power.

A goliath goddess slew the mighty David Petraeus.

But here’s this other scenario, the flip side of toxic sex, in which someone perceived as an underling sidles up to a powerful figure and, with one glimpse of her underthings, ratchets him down a notch, adding notches in her headboard. The victims are usually the target’s spouse, family … in Gen. Petraeus’ case, generally anyone who trusted him to serve in a classified-level, clear-headed capacity. Sometimes, even the perp becomes a victim — it’s a slow boil, though.

I liked David Petraeus. Considered him basically a good man, also handsome. Good men are hard to come by; some women on the prowl justify taking “someone else’s” man based on that theory. OR on the premise that the liberties they take (on another’s premises) are actually gifts to the warrior with a sad chink in his armor.

Why is it we find being defenseless so sexy?

It’s complicated. And a damned shame.

Fellow women, represent: Make the pro-voting choice

Photo courtesy of Kentuckians Against the War on Women

We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats

Dauntless crusaders for women’s votes

Though we adore men individually

We agree that as a group, they’re rather stupid …

Cast off the shackles of yesterday

Shoulder to shoulder into the fray

Our daughters’ daughters will adore us

And they’ll sing in grateful chorus

Well done, Sister Suffragettes!”

With Election Day nearly upon us — the ninth presidential election of my adult life — I woke with those lyrics from Mary Poppins’ Sister Suffragette ringing like the Liberty Bell in my head.

Hard to imagine a world where I might have been barred from the polls, in which I might have been allowed only to pass out leaflets or make bake-sale goods while being denied that manly work of pulling the lever connected to my brain.

Who were these suffragettes who suffered heroically to win our right not only to vote but to have a strong voice in the democratic process? It’s because they trod the rough, subversive path that women a century later matter more than ever to today’s pollsters. In the women’s movement, we have moved from politically fallow to fearsomely powerful. Talking heads say the onus is on women to choose the nation’s course Tuesday. And many consider our choice clear: forward or backward.

Back in 1964, most kids my age – or older, ’cause I was 3-ish — got all caught up in the whimsy, magic and razzmatazz of the Mary Poppins movie – the diving into 3-D chalk paintings, the dirty, dancing chimney sweeps, the word starting with an “S” no one could spell and fewer could define: suffragette.

OK, maybe that wasn’t the word. Yet, without benefit of YouTube or metrolyrics.com or even a VCR, yet, I memorized Sister Suffragette and was known to march around the house imagining myself in a sash and carrying signs.

Blissfully unaware I was, at the time, that the sashes popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by militant feminists had morphed into the burdensome mantles of beauty pageant queens — women not parading but being paraded and adored for their surface assets and not their mettle.

Some of the 2012 Miss America contestants

Another accidental feminist

I was cluelessly indoctrinated by what another blogger has labeled “accidental feminism.” Sister Suffragette, while certainly not the most ubiquitous of Disney songs by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman — It’s a Small World (After All) seems a more likely candidate — is a front-runner as the most educational. What did its lyrics mean to an impressionable young girl of the Sixties?

From Kensington to Billingsgate,

One hears the restless cries

From every corner of the land:

“Womankind, arise!”

Political equality

And equal rights with men

Take heart for Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again …”

Even if I didn’t know where “Billingsgate” was or who “Mrs. Pankhurst” was then — stuffy Britishisms that nursed a budding inner Anglophile — that ball-busting Glynis Johns got my attention as Mrs. Banks, an uppity wife who wasn’t paying enough attention to the children or household because she was out rabble-rousing. I didn’t know any women like that. Or even that that was a thing to do.

Emmeline Pankhurst. She liked books.

Emmeline Pankhurst, it turns out, also was schooled early in feminism, at the tender age of 8, but it wasn’t until after she bore and raised five children and her husband died that she founded the Women’s Social and Political Union. Remember: Lives were much shorter back then, but she lived to the ripe age of 69.

Her group dedicated itself to “deeds, not words” — if women didn’t have a voice, what good were words? They resorted to vandalism, smashing windows, and minor assault, attacking police officers, making jail cells their cozy homes away from home. They staged hunger strikes to protest cruel conditions in Manchester, England, workhouses. They not only fought for a woman’s right to vote, but a woman’s right to work — OUTSIDE the home — and work hard for the money, even to join men on the battlefield, in combat.

Not mentioned in the song was another suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison, who famously stepped onto the Epsom Derby track and died after a collision with the king’s racehorse. People at the time mused she must have been suicidal, because what woman in her right mind would stand up thus for a cause? Herbert Jones, the jockey on that horse, was said to be “haunted by that woman’s face” and, in 1928, at the funeral of Emmeline Pankhurst, he laid a wreath “to do honour to the memory of Mrs Pankhurst and Miss Emily Davison.” In 1951, Jones’ son found him dead in a gas-filled kitchen. The horse, Anmer, by the way, got up and finished the race, rider-less.

Which all sounds like a pretty good Disney story, after all (from the horse’s perspective).

Emily Davison lies fatally injured next to the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. Hmm, epsom salts. Gotta look that up.

Those suffering fools

That sly fox Walt Disney. Disney didn’t write the Mary Poppins script. It was based on a 1930s series of novels by P.L. Travers — she the J.K. Rowling of her time. (So, what’s the deal with successful female authors disguising their gender using initials?) She didn’t want to sell him the rights, but he bulldozed over her and started producing the film before she grudgingly agreed.

Would you like some sugar with that political prescription, or maybe just some red meat?

Disney’s bully-pulpit politics aside (he was a founding member of the anti-communist Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals who in 1947 testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, ratting out fellow animators and labor union organizers — no Mickey Mouse stuff), the message of sugar-coating one’s medicine is not lost on Hollywood types. Dosing the public with propaganda masked as entertainment is an old trick; this season’s political ads have borrowed from Hollywood and proven as fictional and visceral as any Disney fable.

Just as in Mary Poppins, this election seems to be coming down to women’s rights vs. Wall Street, Mrs. Banks vs. Mr. Banks, participants in an unhappy marriage, heads of an unhappy, dysfunctional family.

Call in the Supernanny — like the reality TV show. The woman as superhero, who, by the way, was way, way ahead of her time. But always on schedule and looking smart and so put together.

Mary Poppins was everything I wanted to be. Dripping in wit, she had all the answers. She could communicate with the animals, the birds, especially. She handled the housework with a snap of her fingers and had plenty of time left over for fun — and not just ordinary fun, but surreal fun, with a boyfriend who would dote on her, declare any day a national “jolly” holiday in her honor and serve her tea and crumpets with dancing penguins as waiters. OMG fun. Men in service to women. What a concept. And still, Poppins is 110% woman, practically perfect in every way.

No more the meek and mild subservients we

We’re fighting for our rights militantly

Never you fear!”

This is the “accidental feminism” part, when you learn the song was added to the movie only to appease an actress’ ego. As Gregg Sherman, son of Richard, revealed recently on the “Disney Insider” blog:

“Walt and the boys were having lunch in the commissary with actress Glynis Johns, venerable star of stage and screen. Midway through the meal, Glynis was suddenly confused and a tad hurt, as she believed she was up for the lead role. Walt, always thinking on his feet, assured Glynis that she’d be ideal as Mrs. Banks. ‘And just wait ’til you hear the big number the boys wrote for you,’ Walt boasted. There was no number. The boys quickly excused themselves and scrambled back to their office to create a cause for Mrs. Banks’s character by researching women’s movements in 1900’s England. They fashioned new lyrics into a tune they were writing called, ‘Practically Perfect.’ The result was Glynis’ (cast as Mrs. Banks) big number, ‘Sister Suffragette.’ “

[The astute theatergoer will notice a song called “Practically Perfect,” penned by George Stiles and Anthony Drew, was added to the 2004 stage production, and “Sister Suffragette” was cut.]

Even without Mrs. Banks’ cause tossed in, though, Mary Poppins had the feminist drill down-pat. And talk about diplomacy. She could heal the rift in any household, and still make its inhabitants think it was their idea when truth finally dawned, regaining control of their senses and getting their houses in order, or going off their rockers to just go fly a kite.

Vote Mary Poppins in 2016

2016? Not happening!

The other night I was out drinking with a couple of gal pals, talking men and politics. Of course, the election and their husbands’, er, positions came up. One despaired to me: “What we need in there is a woman. Someone who knows how to compromise and get things done. [Someone like Mary Poppins, perhaps?] Will Hillary ever run again?”

I told her I would take Hillary at her word. She says she’s done, she’s probably done. Unlike the Chris Christies of the world who tease and train for 2016.

Then I start thinking: Who else, if not Hillary, to take one for the team? The nation seems ready for a female politician to go all the way. But political leading ladies tend to be Annie Oakley types, on both sides, oddball characters — whether no-nonsense Kay Bailey Hutchison or maverick loony Sarah Palin; lightning rod Nancy Pelosi or brassy Louise Slaughter.

Is there really a war on women? If so, where are the front lines, exactly? There could be arguments either for the male-dominated legislative chambers or the male-dominated media, obstructing their path.

Anyone knows political tides are strongest at the poles: the polar opposites of wealthy vs. welfare classes. I know “extremists” in both parties, and each argues that the other is brainwashed, or focusing on just one issue, not educating themselves holistically. “The dumb voters — maybe we shouldn’t encourage them to vote, if they vote the wrong way, anyway.”

Ann Romney passes out whoopie pies to the press corps.

The way I see it: One issue that you care about deeply is enough. Just vote. If you’re rich, maybe that issue is taxes, and you want to preserve your wealth. If you’re a woman, maybe that issue is reproductive rights, to preserve how far we’ve come. But vote. Maybe you don’t like or trust either guy, so the power behind the man — the woman — is swaying you. Is it a choice between whoopie pies or vegetable gardens? Macy’s vs. Ross Dress for Less? I’m not judging anyone’s fashion tastes, values or lifestyles.

Simply: Vote. With your gut. With your noodle. Because you can.

Has Michelle Obama’s time come — again?

Stand up for something, as Emily Davison did. Just steer clear of all the horse stuff.

Even if you feel choosing one of the guys at the top makes no difference because it’s the meddling of the middle-man Congress that muddies our system, then especially vote. Forget the top-down, down-ballot party platform approach. Maybe it’s time for women to go bottom-up. Examine the local races, vote closer to home.

Man up, women

According to the Women in Congress website, since 1917, when Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first elected U.S. lawmaker, a total 277 women have served in either the House or Senate.

Currently, of the 17 female senators in office (17%), five are Republicans and 12 Democrats, representing 13 different states. Only four states have more than one female senator (two each): California, Maine, New Hampshire and Washington. Offhand, I know at least one, Maine’s Olympia Snowe, is not seeking a fourth term. And in the three-way race to fill her seat, the only woman, Democrat Cynthia Dill, has not received even an endorsement from the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. And Texas’ legendary Kay Bailey Hutchison is also retiring. Note to swing voters: Connie Mack in the Florida race is NOT a girl’s name.

In the House, 73 of the 435 seats are occupied by women from 27 states: 24 Republicans and 49 Democrats. That’s also about 17% of the House. California has the most with 19, followed by New York with nine; Florida with six; Ohio with four; North Carolina and Texas with three each; two each in Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin; and lone she-wolves representing the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming. I haven’t had time to sort out where else the female representation is bound to slip in Congress, but I’m sure someone must be monitoring it.

Of governorships, there are six sitting women (12% of the whole, four Republicans and two Democrats) but, according to the National Organization for Women, when you include all statewide leadership (lieutenant governors, attorneys general, secretaries of State and legislators) the percentage is more like 23%. Better than Congress but sad when you consider women are the U.S. majority.

We women suffer from representation without representation.

And the National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 6,030 of a total 7,383 legislative seats in 44 states are on the line Tuesday. (It’s an off-cycle election for Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia.)

In short — not — we haven’t come such a long way, baby. We still have far to go.

The best thing any woman can do for the woman’s movement, no matter where she stands, is to move herself to the polls tomorrow. Maybe even stop by a nursing home, where women far outnumber men, and help mobilize a few elderly ladies there, too. Some of them may remember what it was like to feel voiceless and powerless.

Let them have their say. Say, say, say, 90 million says — the estimated number of Americans who will sit out Tuesday.

I’m just saying. Don’t get discouraged because you feel the choices aren’t good enough. Did the suffragettes get discouraged, when they had a right to be discouraged?

Make a choice, sister. Represent, and be represented.

Our daughters’ daughters will adore us and sing in grateful chorus: Well done!