Ballots are still being counted and this election feels as if it may “make or break” America. Quite literally. Although we’ve heard countless incidents of Donald Trump’s careless mistakes, I have a gut feeling it is much worse than we ever could imagine. Because of his narcissistic tendencies, I can’t bring myself to trust him in any position of power, especially the presidency. Trump’s agenda also impacts women’s rights, being that new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is now sworn in. Advocates are concerned that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, risking the possibility of all women losing the autonomy of their bodies.
Each election has significance, however I’m concerned if we don’t start taking voting seriously, our rights will continue to be stripped away. We have to take a stand now to ensure that we continue to progress, instead of regress. Voting is our opportunity to change the representation we have at all levels of democracy. Voting is our hope for an improved future.
If Trump is re-elected, I’m fearful for this country. I’m fearful for every sector of our government, economy, education system, etc. I’m terrified for my friends in the LGBTQ community. What if they aren’t able to receive health care any longer? What if doctors will be able to deny patient services simply because of gender or sexual identity? It feels as if we’re moving back in time to limited rights, which is the opposite of what we long for and deserve. Concerns of racism and fewer rights should never be something that is endorsed from either political parties, but we seem to be desensitized to and minimizing the unprincipled actions of Donald Trump.
Women globally strive for gender equality. Women have achieved groundbreaking things in relatively recent history, such as the Seneca Rights Convention, the National American Woman Suffrage Organization, and the passing of the nineteenth Constitutional amendment. Although we’ve made huge strides since the 1840s, the political and social treatment of women is far from being equal to the treatment of men. A recent article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA claims, “We show dramatic progress in movement toward gender equality between 1970 and 2018, but also that in recent decades, change has slowed or stalled.” Women entering male-dominated workplaces are at a significant pay gap. Catalyst, a research publication, indicates that, “In the United States, male-dominated occupations generally pay more than female-dominated occupations. Twenty-six out of the 30 highest-paying jobs in the US are male-dominated. In comparison, 23 out of the 30 lowest-paying jobs in the U.S. are female-dominated.“
Male professional athletes are held on a pedestal, whereas female professional athletes may be struggling to make their mortgage payments. Some may argue that feminists are “nit-picking,” and that true equality is unattainable, but I strongly disagree.
These disadvantages are also seen within the American political system. Women are significantly underrepresented in all parts of our government: federal, state and local. In 1997, the United States ranked 41st in the world for women’s representation in Legislature. Twenty years later, our rank fell to 101st in the world.
This should concern everyone in our society. The under-representation of women essentially strips from us the ability to advocate for change from our own perspective. Men can’t speak for us. They simply cannot empathize or assume our position on any subject. And in a democracy, our voices deserve to be both listened to and accounted for. This is clearly not the current situation.
With the 2020 election, bringing insight and awareness to gender inequality within politics is necessary. This is even more important this election where women are on the ballots. It’s important to be mindful that our ancestors had to fight for our current rights. We have political voting power. Now is the time to foster encouragement for women to use their rights to push for progress in the system.
Women with professions in politics have their visible struggles, but the struggles of women voters are not always so visible. Many American women still do not have the “luxury” of full voting rights. Regardless of the Voting Rights Act, voter suppression targets LGBTQ voters, disabled voters, voters of color, immigrant voters – and many of these are women who reside at the intersections of these identifications.
This suppression is displayed through unreachable polling locations, voter intimidation, disinformation campaigns, and voter ID laws. Much of this can be blamed on the weakening of the Voters Rights Act. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted key voter protection provisions. In 2017, there was a lift of consent decree on the Republican National Committee. This consent decree allows for “ballot security” to be amplified. These events led many advocates to fear an increase in voter suppression and intimidation.
Along with suppression, voters face other challenges. Many feel unheard in our current political environment, and feel as if elections are just another part of our “failing system.” Others hold optimism in the power of voting and upholding our civic duty. It’s critical to understand other women voters and their perspectives on the challenges of our current political system. Understanding others will inherently help lay the foundation to foster change. It may not directly create change, however it’s a step in the right direction. And this is a step we need to progress politics in a way that best supports women in America.
Having an open-mind to individuals’ personal beliefs is a huge component to unifying women. For perspective, I’ve asked a few women who have experience in political advocacy to elaborate on their experiences of being a female voter, and to share concerns they have with this year’s election as well as elections in general.
Dr. Krystal Stark
I feel like a lot of people I know don’t actually want to know the good and bad things about candidates and their policies/ideas. I think that too often, politicians make promises that they never intend to fulfill to keep their constituents happy until election season is over and this can often lead people to have rose-colored glasses when researching and assessing a candidate’s firmly held beliefs and voting patterns.
Too often, undecided voters go to research more about a particular issue or candidate only to have the details obfuscated and not easily discernible. But instead of a more-educated populace who is provided with evidence and clearly defined ideas so as to synthesize the information and formulate new ideas, so many people I’ve talked to don’t know how to find information about candidates and their stated beliefs.
And as it stands now, if voters are able to find some information about their candidates, reading those details can be exhausting, confusing, and strengthen another vantage point through obfuscating details, drawing inaccurate conclusions, and lead them to feel disenfranchised and make them want to give up. This fundamentally creates a populace with less investment in its development and progress than with protecting possessions.
Dr. Krystal Stark, originally from Kansas City, has been a curriculum developer and music educator for the past 10 years in various states across the south and Midwest. She also serves as artistic director for a social justice feminist nonprofit organization in the Twin Cities.
This election year has probably been the most influential in my lifetime. When Trump was elected in 2016, I was devastated. I participated in the Women’s March of that year because I felt that even though I had cast my vote I had not been heard. This year is no different. I’ve spent my summer participating in different direct actions and taking to the streets to be heard.
I will vote this year because I cannot stand for the blatant misogyny that exists in the current system and that is openly displayed by our current Commander in Chief. Women had to fight for our right to vote – it is not only a duty as a citizen of the United States to vote but it is also a duty to every woman that came before me. The threat to our most basic rights as people is too great a risk – I will cast my vote and I will continue to be heard until there is meaningful change.
Madeline Hentges is a Minneapolis native who works in quality assurance and food safety during the day and has spent the last year and half furthering her work with Calliope Women’s Chorus by working as the president of the Board of Directors.
I was raised in a family in which we always voted, not only for the presidential elections but for the midterms and local elections. We always tried to research about the candidates and choose the one that would best represent our beliefs. This has gotten hard to do, especially in today’s multi-media society. We are constantly bombarded with negative ads and commercials in which information is taken out of context, not true, or misleading. There needs to be a way to regulate what can be used and communicated and/or duplicated in political ads.
In addition to researching the candidate’s views on issues, I look at their character. I prefer to cast my vote for someone who would represent my city, state, or country the best. I look for someone who has character traits such as: honesty, integrity, humility, and empathy. I also look for a candidate who can unify the different parties involved, and someone who could talk and communicate to constituents during times of despair or hardship. It takes time and effort on everyone’s part to vote, but it is our civil duty to do so. I will continue to vote – my voice, like all other women, deserves to be heard.
Roxanne Lemire resides in Woodbury, Minnesota, where she is a teacher for the South Washington County School District. She has been teaching for 10 years, and prior to that worked in interior design. Coming from a teaching family, she taught her daughter at a young age the importance of civic duty, and encouraged her to become educated in politics and the implications politics has in society.