Political Literacy

Sunhay is a rising Junior and is interning in Queens, New York at the Women in Need Center, which primarily serves as a shelter for Asian women in crisis.

I want our first female president to be different and better than all our previous presidents. Yes, I have higher standards for female leaders. But it’s because I want everyone to see how great a woman can be as a leader. It’s not okay for women to fail and give reasons for their weaknesses! When in the spotlight, they must shine.

At least that’s what I feel—as though all women are out there to prove something to the public, that they must prove their equal footing with men and squash any inklings of doubt based on their gender.

But my biggest desire would be to see the day when a woman can be a president like it’s no big deal—when mediocre women can stand side by side mediocre men in positions of power. In this manner, it’s important that we have a female president in the imminent future. To make it less special, to make it part of the mainstream consciousness: ‘Yes, women can be presidents. So, what?’

I have issues with the way political campaigns are run based on individual candidates and not their respective political parties. Since when has a single person brought about change all on her own? The advent of technology has also made political campaigns that much more manipulative, deceptive and complicated. National politics have become so complicated for the average person to understand while political campaigns have become dependent on provoking simple mob-like behaviors amongst voters. And I can’t help but think it’s all intentional—to keep the public unaware while letting them feel involved.

National role models in this manner don’t matter to me (they only matter in the sense that they can start the process of normalizing our current notions of the extraordinary).  No one person should carry an entire nation’s future on her shoulders much less get the credit for doing so.

All the above criticisms come from my own experience and exposure to politics. I grew up thinking it was cool to be disengaged. Where anything political was deemed boring, annoying and stuck up. When I got into politics and became unable to ignore certain news items, I found myself still unable to read up on my representatives. On top of all that, my reasons for voting for Obama were because I couldn’t vote for McCain. Even though my friends were crazy for Obama and I went to his inauguration and was moved by his speeches, I didn’t know specific things he stood for. I just knew he was more progressive and inspirational and wanted change (whatever that meant). I wasn’t thinking. I was part of a mob.

I’m reading a lot more about politics and exposing myself to different ways of thinking about governing systems. But it still angers me that I have to read so much to even have the tools to be critical of how I am being governed, to think independently from the masses, to think for myself.

3 thoughts on “Political Literacy

  1. I, too, long for the day when a female political candidate is not a big deal. I’m not sure how we get there. I don’t think it’s appropriate to support a female candidate just because she is a woman. Rather, I want to ask the same questions I would ask of anyone running for office. Is this person a capable leader? Has he or she shown his/her self to be of strong moral character? Does this candidate understand how policymaking really works and built a strong team?
    Aside: I think the kind of people a president or candidate surrounds his/herself with, is very important and indicative because of the influence they have.

    I don’t want to be a part of an uninformed mob, either, but it’s so hard to wade through the information we are barraged with – especially with so many different spins coming from cable news etc. – that it is hard to get a full picture. I admit sometimes I simply check out. Which is really the opposite of democracy, isn’t it?

  2. I share your perception that it’s not enough to have one exceptional woman elected president, the broader goal is to have women so engaged in government and politics at every level that their presence, individual or collective, becomes the norm. As you become more engaged in following political issues and candidates, you may find that the issues and candidates become clearer and the sources of information about them more available, especially in New York.

  3. Nice post! I am so glad you’re writing about political literacy. I firmly believe that we are seeing the result of widespread ignorance about government, government systems and representative democracy. The U.S. is a democratic republic which relies on (and requires) informed participants. And I agree with you that the work required to become truly informed has arguably made political speeches and rhetoric the only place people become informed…making their participation and perspective very emotional and not very rational. This is very sad and very anti- what we need government to be in these current times.

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