Opinion: As election day looms, remember the need for women in government

Democratic+vice+presidential+candidate%2C+Sen.+Kamala+Harris%2C+D-Calif.%2C+visits+the+This+Is+the+Place+Monument%2C+Saturday%2C+Oct.+3%2C+2020%2C+in+Salt+Lake+City.+The+monument+commemorates+the+end+of+the+westward+journey+of+Mormon+pioneers+to+Utah+as+well+as+early+explorers+of+the+West.+%28AP+Photo%2FPatrick+Semansky%29

AP

Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., visits the This Is the Place Monument, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Salt Lake City. The monument commemorates the end of the westward journey of Mormon pioneers to Utah as well as early explorers of the West. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

There are 127 congresswomen combined in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate out of 535 seats overall. That means 23.7% of Congress is comprised of women, and therefore, 76.3% of Congress is made up of men. This needs to change. 

For centuries, men have been at the forefront of occupations in government, politics, economics, and business while women have been considered housewives and mothers. Only in the past few decades have women been accepted as real politicians and members of government, and that movement has only been at the forefront of politics in the last handful of years. 

Throughout the entire history of this country, there have only been four female Supreme Court Justices, one female Speaker of the House, and zero elected female presidents or vice presidents.

And yet, laws on a woman’s reproductive rights are still decided by a male-led Senate, a male-led House of Representatives, and a male-led White House.

In an interview with a Pennsylvania State Representative Madeleine Dean, I asked her about the future of women in politics and how little opportunities there have been for women pursuing a political career. 

“There’s some old wives tale that I hate,” she said, “that a man looks in the mirror and sees a Senator, and a woman looks in the mirror and doesn’t, and thinks ‘maybe I’m not qualified’ and ‘maybe I’m not smart enough’.”

Dean is the Representative for Pennsylvania’s 4th congressional district and has been for the past 6 years. Her story is an interesting one, as she first ran for a local government position when she was just 18 years old. 

I ran a campaign, I went door to door in my little precinct, I unseated an incumbent, and I was elected committee person. That planted the seed with me.”

— Madeleine Dean, Congresswoman

“I was 18 years old and I was not yet registered to vote,” she explained when reflecting on her start in politics. “I ran a campaign, I went door to door in my little precinct, I unseated an incumbent, and I was elected committee person. That planted the seed with me.”

As a child, I never remember ever coming close to thinking I wanted to be a politician or a governor or a senator, or even a president when I grew up because all of those positions were held by men. I had never seen a woman hold a position of power like that and I feel that things have drastically changed since then. 

When I was young and when my parents were young, politics was a man’s job, and in some ways, it still is. 

I believe that politics is everyone’s job. It has to be. No matter your gender, race, sexuality; people need to have a voice in the decisions made about our well-being, especially when those decisions impact us directly. 

This upcoming presidential election could make history, with Kamala Harris as the vice presidential nominee on Joe Biden’s campaign. As an African-Indian American woman, she has had her fair share of hurdles to jump. 

“My mother had a saying,” Harris recounted in an interview with CNN, “ ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.’”

Having a woman in a position of power incites others to join her. The possibility of Harris becoming the first female vice president is a sign to women and girls watching the ups and downs of the election. It motivates and inspires them to realize that they can make it in a male-dominated environment, even if they are the only ones doing so.

Having a woman in a position of power incites others to join her. The possibility of Harris becoming the first female vice president is a sign to women and girls watching the ups and downs of the election. It motivates and inspires them to realize that they can make it in a male-dominated environment, even if they are the only ones doing so.”

All the powerful women in our government who fight for the rights of all the women in our country are inspirations for us all. 

Women like Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and even the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg are paving the way for others to follow. 

With this upcoming election, I fear that all the work that has been done for the rights of not only women, but people of color, LGBTQIA+ members, immigrants, and countless more will be stripped away in the event President Trump is reelected. 

Countless times, Trump has spoken of women using derogatory and misogynistic terms, some too vulgar to say out loud. Here are just a few of the more censored examples of things he’s said about women:

A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10,” Trump said on the Howard Stern Show.

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” He said about his Republican primary campaign opponent Carly Fiorina’s appearance.

“If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps, I would be dating her. Is that terrible?” Trump said in an interview with The View in 2006, quite possibly one of his more disturbing quotes. 

This is our president. Sure, he may not have been the President when he said those things, but he is still the same person. 

All the comments about a woman’s appearance and image are purely out of fear. When one resorts to insulting someone’s looks, that’s when you know that person feels threatened. But words do hurt sometimes, especially when they are incessantly peppered at women. 

The world is, sadly, a dangerous place for women and girls,” former First Lady Michelle Obama said in an interview with the Today Show, “and I think young women are tired of it. They’re tired of being undervalued. They’re tired of being disregarded.” 

We see the media criticizing women in government for the way they dress, the way they talk, the way they work, and yet, you rarely see that criticism to the extent in which women face done to a man in the same position. 

In some ways, these demeaning comments against women make them all the more motivated to prove wrong those who think like this. While the words hurt, a true measure of strength is getting back up again and not letting the petty insults get to you.

I find that the reason there are so few women in government is because some people are afraid of change. Changes in policies, changes in lifestyles, changes in how women are generally perceived. The majority of our government consists of old white men, which makes sense, since that’s all it has ever been. But our country has changed, and now, our government needs to change with it. 

There needs to be more diversity in our leadership, something that is long overdue. I trust that one day, our decision-makers are as diverse as our country and provide equal representation for everyone. November 3, 2020 isn’t a bad time to take a big step in that direction.