Politics As Usual

This week we asked students to reflect on the role of electoral politics in creating social change.  They were asked to answer the question “Do we need a female President?” in light of Rebecca Traister’s book Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything For American Women, and to think about the connections between grassroots organizations and electoral politics.  The students also interviewed people at their worksites about the role of politics in their lives and work. 


Libby Hase is interning at Sanctuary for Families this summer.

I have observed that following politicians’ stances on issues is complicated. They have their own personal beliefs. They have the beliefs that they want to portray to the public in order to get votes. And sometimes they vote for certain regulations just because they want to gain favor with other politicians, regardless of beliefs. These observations, along with the fact that college has just kept me honestly very busy, has caused me to stop following politics closely in the last couple of years. I also honestly and even ashamedly admit that once Obama was elected, I lowered my effort in keeping up with politics probably because I felt I didn’t need to. Once the presidential election was over, I didn’t need to pay attention until the next one came around, right?

I say ashamedly because after this summer, I am even more aware how important it is to follow political issues so that people can vote and support what causes are particularly important to them in life.

(And I do not accept the reply that someone does not have a cause that is important to them.)

The struggle to improve the way our government works and to improve the quality of life of Americans is something that is constantly being discussed and voted on. I believe we, as inhabitants of this country and as human beings, have a responsibility to help in this struggle. This might mean voting to keep an existing law or place, or actively calling senators to vote for a new law. As a woman, I want to keep up with politics so that I can continue to have a voice in what happens in this country pertaining to women’s rights (among other things).

With at least three waves of the women’s movement behind us, how many more will it take before women can confidently say they feel like they have equal rights as men do? Women have slowly been gaining more rights in the last century, but there has recently been a battle over keeping funding for reproductive rights and controversy over abortion laws. I think it might just take a woman president to finally push more equality for women through the senate and congress. Having a national role model could be the answer to influencing groups of Americans to jump to action or vote a certain way. I believe in the power of collective action and in individual leaders. When one is not working, sometimes the other one will.

6 thoughts on “Politics As Usual

  1. I always wonder whether it’s a tautology to vote for a woman because of her gender rather than for substantive issues. I’m not sure there’s a clear answer.

    • That’s a good question. We discussed that at one of our Moxie seminars. It could be dangerous to vote for a woman president just to get her into office because once she is in office and doesn’t do a stellar job, people would be reinforced with the idea that women don’t make good presidents. On the other hand, if we could just vote a woman into office in the first place, it would make the path for other women easier in the future.

  2. It’s good to recognize that political issues and outcomes affect many aspects of our lives. As to the effect of a female president on issues critical to women, it may be worth while to bear in mind that the issue of reproductive freedom has been on the front burner of our national political consciousness for at least 40 years, with little decrease in the intensity with which entrenched positions are maintained. In fact there are now prominent women active in politics, including the two currently running for president, across the spectrum from left to right. In this context, is gender the most important consideration in choosing a candidate, or is it the candidate’s commitment to the goals of the voter?

    • Thanks for the comment. I personally think that the candidate’s commitment to the goals of the voter is most important.

  3. There are other places in the world that have elected women leaders. I believe that we can know actually do an empirical study to ascertain if indeed women heads-of-state have had a positive impact on women’s issues, and on equality in general.

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