Let’s forget for a moment names in the news like Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford, or Deborah Ramirez. Let’s talk about an even bigger - more important - issue: there aren’t enough women holding elected office in America. The paradigm needs to shift. Now.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re Republican, conservative, Democrat, liberal, Democratic Socialist... whatever. If you’re a woman and you’ve ever remotely entertained the idea of running for public office, this is your time. Because the men who currently hold positions of power in your community, your state, in Congress, or in the White House are failing you miserably.
While one major political party may appear to be more patriarchal than the other, there is an overall institutional failing in how women are perceived, listened to, and represented. Recent events may have turned the spotlight on this inequity, but it transcends the current political climate.
Men holding high office may profess to be sensitive to issues affecting women, but, logically, we can never be truly empathic to your causes and concerns. And there’s only one way to change that. Women need to mobilize. We’ve already seen the beginnings of that mobilization, but demonstrating in the streets is not enough. And while more women are running for office at all levels of government in this election cycle than at any other time in history, we need more of them.
Observers have pointed to the rise in women seeking office in the immediate aftermath of the abusive treatment of Anita Hill during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas in 1991. Some are pointing to the election of Donald J. Trump as impetus for the recent surge in women on the stump. Many are suggesting that the horror show currently taking place in Washington will further ramp up that number in future elections. Good.
Why should men be left to decide matters of women’s reproductive health, gender and pay inequality, the veracity of women’s claims of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, and far too many other issues that have a direct impact on women? Why should they? This topsy-turvy logic is unacceptable. Women will never be entirely heard or taken seriously unless more of them are directly involved in the crafting of legislation that directly impacts them.
Women of America, the condescension being exhibited among men who are either ignorant, antiquated, or not forward-thinking, is on display every day in homes, on the job and, especially, in government. Only you can do something about it. Demographically, you are in the majority but in the halls of government you are, decidedly, in the minority.
The hundredth anniversary of a woman’s right to vote in the United States will coincide with the next presidential election in 2020. Yet, according to congressional archives, only 329 women have served in the House and Senate since Jeannette Pickering Rankin, a progressive Republican from Montana, became the first woman elected to the House in 1916 and, again, in 1940. She was instrumental in the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing that women could not only serve, but vote as well.
Currently, only eighty-four women are serving in the House and twenty-three in the Senate; six women hold governorships. That may change in November. With 184 non-incumbent women running for office, a potential seismic shift could well be in the offing. And complacent men in positions of power who have long enjoyed the status quo are running scared.
Whether you are a woman who is pro-life or pro-choice, run. If you’re committed to a particular agenda or ideology or issue, run. If you want to make your country or your world or your hometown a better place, run.
The old adage of all politics being local has been supplanted by the new reality that all politics is personal. And women throughout the land have a very personal stake in the outcome of this year’s elections and beyond.
Men in positions of power may hear you, but they aren’t listening. Or learning. In short, they are failing you. Only by having more women in office at all levels of government can that be changed.
Running for office is a marathon, not a sprint. Ladies put on your running shoes. The race is just beginning.
Blair Bess is a Los Angeles-based television writer, producer, and columnist. He edits the online blog Soaggragated.com, and can be reached at BBess.firstname.lastname@example.org.