Updated: Apr 8, 2020
It has been 100 years since women’s demand for political power was answered with the 19th amendment. That is simultaneously a long time and a very short amount of time. A century. Only 100 years that women’s voices have been heard through the vote. And that’s not even including the women whose political opinions were decided by their husbands or fathers or who still faced de facto denial because of poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses. Women are an indomitable force, and since 1964, the number of women voters has exceeded the number of men voters in presidential elections. There’s no question that women will have an impact on the 2020 election and will be critical in determining the direction of the country.
This Women’s Equality Day, we need to rethink, reimagine, and reinvent what it means to have political power in the United States. Will women be able to shatter the glass ceiling if they are only seen as a “Woman” Politician, a “Woman” Legislator, a “Woman” voter? Have you ever heard a woman introduce herself as such? Hi, my name is Jennifer Blemur, but just call me woman voter.
It sounds ridiculous. And it is.
“When people say they want to talk about women’s issues, my response is always, ‘I’m so glad you want to talk about the economy!’” Senator Kamala Harris knows that women’s issues are society’s issues. But that isn’t a common perception. When women are empowered, especially economically, they act in the best interests of their communities. And who doesn’t want a community where people have food to eat, a place to sleep, and health care when they need it?
There is, of course, some current and past legislation that specifically targets women’s bodies, prohibits women from being able to do certain things, like serve in military combat positions or use the bathroom of their gender, or protects women from violence. But this is only a fraction of what woman politicians and voters care about. And even these issues should not be deemed women’s issues. They affect society as a whole. They are everyone’s issues.
During the midterms, women came out to vote at a higher rate than men. As history has shown us, that’s nothing new. What’s important to know is what they were prioritizing. Among women, 74% of them said that healthcare was a major priority for them in the 2018 elections, also 22% said the economy and jobs were a major priority. Only 10% said that issues impacting only women were a major priority for them in 2108. Women are not a monolith, and while they do care about themselves, children, and families, their priorities are not relegated to those areas.
Conversely, women have strong views on policy issues that are traditionally associated with men or seen as masculine. A 2018 poll by YouGov found no real differences between gender groups on the level of threat Iran poses. Additionally, the same poll found that men and women see “use of military force” as similarly important (83%), though men feel slightly more intensity about its importance. A 2019 YouGov poll found that there was zero statistically significant difference between men and women in assessing the importance of both foreign policy and the use of military force as issues.
While women are generally more averse and cautious when considering military conflict than men, 62% of women feel another world war is likely within the next 40 years, versus 56% of men. Though we aren’t looking forward to it — we do see another one coming. It could be because we don’t have enough women in the national security, defense, and diplomacy spaces. But that’s another article.
Women legislators are similarly not a homogenous group of people who care about “women’s issues.” They are diverse in viewpoints, priorities, backgrounds. For example, state legislators across the country have introduced 24 resolutions to impede the president’s sole authority to launch nuclear weapons without congressional consent and to institute a policy of not using nuclear weapons first in a conflict (with a few caveats). Would it surprise you that 19 of those were women? It shouldn’t. Women in the voting booth and on the ballot care about defense issues and that’s without dressing it up in pink.
This Women’s Equality Day, take a second to check your assumptions. Women are diverse in every sense of the word and should be treated as such. Women’s issues, women’s leadership, women’s work end up affecting everyone, so let’s drop the constant qualifications and give these voters, politicians and issues the equal respect they deserve.