Well, just continuing on my theme of I-am-woman-read-me-roar, I think this is an interesting and important time to consider the impact of women on the vote for President happening in a few weeks. I think this is the last time we will have one of these chats before we all go vote. (I hope we’re all planning on going to vote—and if you live in a state or commonwealth, such as mine, where you need to be registered a month ahead of time, I hope you’re already registered. But not all precincts of our country have the same rule, so please check your state’s website.)
As long as I have been of age to vote, or of age to be aware of voting, I’ve heard about “The Women’s Vote.” It’s a particular category—like others, grouped by ethnicity or religion—that commentators treat as a single-minded, same-voting entity that a candidate must lure over to his side for any hope of a victory.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, yes there are certain topics and issues that ought to matter to women when choosing someone who will make laws about these topics and issues. On the other hand, I am completely certain that not every woman feels the same way about any of these issues. And, really, whether I’m inclined to agree with you or not, I believe you should be able to vote the way you want—that’s why our foremothers fought so hard for us to be able to vote. In this election, women’s issues are very important. I’m not telling you how you should vote on those “women’s issues,” because I’m not going to tell you how to believe; however, anyone who is a woman or cares about women (which ought to be everyone) should be aware of what all candidates believe and want to put forth on their agenda. Here’s the thing: all the candidates want your vote, and really, want the whole voting block of women.
While we’re probably going to talk largely about the Presidential election, because most of us reading this together have that in common, the same holds true for all the local individual elections I hope we’re all caring about and voting in also. Women’s suffrage started out as local movements. Did you know that? I just recently learned it. I like that.
Like many widespread, grand changes that happen in our world (currently I think of same-sex marriage), it seems to start off locally, on a smaller scale. Individual people talking to their individual communities have a large impact once enough people are on board. Our strong, independent, wonderful suffragettes knew this. The women’s suffrage movement, which we all know from high school history class, picked up considerable movement and allllllllllmost made itself a reality in 1848 (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, please search “Seneca Falls Conference 1848” with your search engine of choice). However, oops, this little tussle of an American Civil War happened and the 1st wave of Feminism had to pause and quell a bit. I mean, I’m happy and grateful every day for what women before me did, but I also understand the War Between the States may have provided more important, of-the-moment issues. (Now, if only women could have voted then…).
After the Civil War, that’s when the localized women’s suffrage started (think Mary Poppins…but American). By 1920, this local agenda was a national agenda that became a Constitutional Amendment, which, if I haven’t mentioned it before, is a REALLY BIG DEAL. It’s the 19th to be exact, and one of my favorites (I have very few un-favorites. Mostly, Prohibition—by the way the Temperance Movement was also largely a women’s movement. See, I told you not all women agree on all political issues).
Here’s a larger thought: we haven’t even been voting as a gender for 100 years. Sometimes this seems unreal to me. Then, sometimes, when I am treated like just a little girl who couldn’t possibly understand what the big men are talking about. Then it feels like they (“they” being the proverbial “man” who’s trying to bring us down all the time) wouldn’t even let me vote 100 days ago. And then I sing No Doubt’s seminal classic “Just a Girl” and feel like a badass (am I allowed to say badass on Side B?), capable, WOMAN. (Again: we’re roaring. Roar with me.)
Luckily, I’d like to think we women as a gender do not take our hard-fought battle to vote in vain. Here’s a wonderful little graph Rutgers put together on the voting numbers between men and women since 1964. In our lovely visual representation, we see women always vote more than men. I’m not trying to rub this in the face of my opposite gender, but I am proud of this fact as a woman—and more importantly, as a woman who votes and is proud to live in a country where I am allowed to vote, as a woman. The issues that women-voters have faced since 1964 really run the gamut of women’s issues and split opinions: wars, abortion, equal pay, civil rights, bra-burning, Bill Clinton, etc…things women care about (if that came off sexist, I apologize. It wasn’t supposed to. But remember, President Clinton was a hit with the “women block” vote for some obvious and applicable reasons, and I’m sincerely not talking about any sex scandals).
I feel as though this is the Presidential election with the most polar opposite views about Women’s Rights since, I don’t know, maybe Kennedy? (I don’t know, that’s probably not true, but I shouldn’t speak personally about anything before I was voting age, which was Bush v Kerry 2004. And despite his lengthy list of faults, I can’t imagine Laura Bush letting her husband say too many negative things about women in public. She just gives me that impression. Also, the debate about Senator McCain and women’s rights is lengthy and requires research and patience, and I don’t feel like it right now. But in the end, Senator McCain and Governor Romney are still worlds apart in this arena, and probably not either of them on the same block as President Obama…so really, I haven’t said anything of importance. End parenthesis.)
I do feel proud when commentators say each candidate needs the “women vote.” I like to feel important. However, I do not like to be grouped together with everyone else with an XY chromosome combination. How is that fair? How was that not included in the 19th Amendment? And what are we, as the self-aware female block, going to do about it?