By: Calla G.
Last week as I sat in my AP Government class, my friends began to share about their weekend adventures helping with a local campaign of my friend’s parent. When my teacher overheard, she asked the girls; “what is Anna’s father running for?” The girls quickly corrected my teacher-it wasn’t Anna’s father whose campaign they had volunteered for, but rather, her mother’s! My teacher, of course, quickly recognized her mistake and pointed out her seemingly stereotypical blunder.
Yet, I found something unsettling about the incident. What is it about politics and women that don’t quite seem to link up in the minds of Americans? While the swearing in of the 113thCongress last January set a record for the number of women represented (there are now 101 serving in both houses), the 19% representation rate is still a far cry from the near 50% of women who are citizens of these United States. But progress is progress. Progress ceases to be so thrilling, however, when the presence of women becomes more of a spectacle than an expectation. Why should we not demand of our system a more accurate accounting of the actual population in its representatives? Years of a male-dominated political sphere have led to a seeming surprise at the interest in the participation of female candidates. News article after news article question the way that the women currently serving will affect the policies dealing with “women’s issues”- is this the exchange for an attempt at equality?
Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to serve in Congress in 1917. Almost a full century later, only 297 women have served. Keeping in mind that there are presently 535 seats available, that number can be-and I dream will be- greatly improved in the near future. However, according to a study published by the Women and Politics Institute in Washington D.C., “the prospects for women’s full inclusion in electoral politics are even bleaker… the gender gap in future interest in running for office has actually grown over the course of the last ten years. More specifically, while men’s interest in a future candidacy remained virtually unchanged across the ten year period, women’s interest dropped; 18 percent of women in 2001, compared to 14 percent of women in 2011, expressed interest in running for office at some point in the future.”
So where does that leave our politically emerging generation? Male ruled and gender underrepresented? That’s what the statistics say.
But I believe in the boldness of our generation. When have statistics ever held us back? What are numbers when we have the power to revolutionize with thought, word, and deed in the political sphere. If anything, these unappealing findings should fuel us with a renewed fervor to combat the gender inequality within American politics, and prove the statistics wrong.
So consider this a call to action. It’s our time to stop running from politics, and start supporting the belief that the involvement of women is not an exception needing praise, but an expectation for greatness.
For more information on the afore-mentioned study, please see: http://www.american.edu/spa/wpi/upload/2012-Men-Rule-Report-web.pdf