Fighting for Women’s Rights at the Voting Booth

09 Sep 2018

Fighting for Women's Rights at the Voting Booth

GOP efforts to ram through Brett Kavanaugh’s  lifetime Supreme Court appointment while hiding vital information about him from the public showcases not only the urgency of overturning one-party rule, but the need to elect more Progressive women to office.  Women’s rights in particular will be affected if Kavanaugh is confirmed and, as predicted, pushes the Supreme Court further right, likely overturning Roe v. Wade.  That Senators Feinstein and Leahy have accused him of perjury and this process still moves forward is another shocking reminder of the deep consequences of not showing up to vote.

In the past eighteen months, women around the country, and the world, have joined the fight against harassment and abuse via the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.  These protests received vital boosts through events such as the anniversary of #WomensMarch, prominent award shows and speeches by elected officials and celebrities, who vowed to stand in solidarity to protect future generations from the violations they have suffered. While this was a big step forward, the worldwide spotlight won’t mean much unless we make our voices heard at the voting booth.

Voting may seem like a no brainer. It’s not. Particularly at midterms, where turnout is notoriously low. All politics is local, each vote critical. Every Senator, Congress person, State representative and Council member can have a profound effect on our daily lives, with the power to enact legislation that will turn #MeToo protests into more than a rallying cry.

Note how little has changed in the 6 years since the 4thEstate conducted its comprehensive, shocking media study, revealing that men are solicited for their opinions in news articles 5 times as much as women – even on women’s health issues.  On matters of the economy and foreign policy, men were quoted 3:1 and 4:1 over women.

Reflective of this, the current ratio in Congress is 80.2% men to 19.8% women – with policies to match.

Older white men still frame the conversation on political, health, economic and foreign policy issues on Sunday talk shows. The ratio of older white males to women and people of color has not changed.  Whose stories are being told and from who’s perspective?

How many powerful, sexist men in news media like Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, Chris Matthews, Cenk Uygur or Glenn Thrush framed the political coverage of our first ever female nominee – and what was the result in 2016?

As one of Time’s 2017 Persons of the Year: The Silence Breakers put it:

“When Trump won the election, I felt a crushing sense of powerlessness. And then I realized that I had to do something.”

As Time also noted:

“The language used by the man who would become America’s 45th President, captured on a 2005 recording, was, by any standard, vulgar. He didn’t just say that he’d made a pass; he “moved on her like a bitch.” He didn’t just talk about fondling women; he bragged that he could “grab ‘em by the pussy.”

“That Donald Trump could express himself that way and still be elected President is part of what stoked the rage that fueled the Women’s March the day after his Inauguration.”

Women who were treated so contemptuously, both on the campaign trail and on the ground, throughout the entire 2106 election cycle are the ones who are responsible for galvanizing a minority opposition Party by staging the #WomensMarch — the largest protest in US history.  The anniversary march was almost as well attended as the first.  Replete with pink pussy hats, women had finally said ‘enough.’  And owing to the #MeToo movement, a number of sexist media predators have now been exposed and forced to step down.

Of necessity, #MeToo and #TimesUp are just getting started.  In her much lauded speech at the Golden Globes, Cecil Be DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Oprah Winfrey stated:

“We all have lived too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”

But is it?

Already, the #MeToo movement has gotten backlash from men (and some women) saying “That’s enough ladies.” Liam Neeson said this is turning into “a bit of a witch hunt.”  Matt Damon came out to “mansplain” the difference between rape and a “pat on the butt,” Andrew Sullivan tells us to “Resist the excesses of #MeToo.” The relentlessly misogynist Bill Maher just referred to #MeCarthyism.”

Why the defensive posture?  #MeToo is a righteous anger that has been simmering for eons, yet women (and affected men) are supposed to ration themselves in their complaint and, at long last, pursuit of justice?

“We’ll allow you to have your say, ladies – but not too much” is the expression of the insecure male who cannot tolerate a criticism he feels duty bound to personalize even if he is not the subject.  Think of all the “no women” or “no colored” policies endured for centuries and now, a few months of protest against predators is “too much”?

We must no longer ration ourselves when it comes to having our voices.

The outspokenness of women and people of color only seems outlandish because we are so used to white male dominance in media, politics, business and even entertainment – where the highest paid are almost always white men.

#TimesUp on telling us we’ve had our say and should once again be quiet.

The great irony is if the current administration is brought down, it will be in great part because of the courage, determination, protests – and VOTES – of The Silence Breakers – all those who were disrespected by power brokers in media, politicians, “bros” of both parties, and of course by Vladimir Putin and his Russian ‘bots’.

Along with disgust at the “election” of admitted “pussy-grabber” Trump, doubtless part of these protests are in reaction to the misogynist double standard Hillary Clinton received at the hands of the press, her opponents and the far left in 2016.  Hundreds more women are running for political office in the 2018 midterms, busting through old conditioning telling them they need “one more degree” or “more experience” to be qualified when no man ever stopped himself with such a thought.

These women deserve serious consideration and every opportunity to raise the level of our representation in government (frankly, the only way to ensure more women-friendly policies).  Yet activism comes in many forms.  It’s the poster you make for a visibility event. It’s the article you share letting your friends learn about someone’s qualifications.  It’s the Town Hall you attend or the protest march.  Surely, the most vital activism is exercising your right in the voting booth to choose who you want to fight for you, without consideration to or fear of a partner or peer.  In our daily struggles juggling bills, family care and career, our votes are still the biggest way we can fight back against those who tell us we don’t matter.

#TimesUp for predators to control the narrative that keeps them in power and keeps us fearful of speaking out against their misdeeds.

#TimesUp for women and people of color to be harassed, abused and not have their work recognized and rewarded equally.

#TimesUp for us to keep silent. We claim an equal seat at the table. Time for our voices to be heard – whether we choose to run for office or not.

#TimesUp also means women must have agency over their own bodies and the freedom to determine their own futures.

#TimesUp to be cajoled into accepting crumbs at the table or to be treated as a political football at election time.

Our protests and our votes bring with them an opportunity for lasting change for the betterment of both women and men.

The solidarity of millions is what makes those who would abuse their power know they can no longer intimidate their targets into silence and ensures that we can translate today’s protests into tomorrow’s representation.

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