The other night I was at a candidate’s forum for the Stonewall Democrats and snapped a photo of the political candidates who were vying for the Stonewall endorsement. What was most notable to me was the fact that there were 8 men and 1 woman on the stage and the image seemed to so perfectly reflect the gender inequity that exists in our government and political system. Some may ask why it matters if women have so little representation in our government? I suppose there were those who also asked that question when Alice Paul was chaining herself to the white House fence demanding the right to vote, before she was arrested and thrown in prison.
The image of 8 men and 1 woman running for office - on the Democratic side of the political spectrum no less - made me wonder how women had managed to get left out of the affirmative action movement and are still no further along in the struggle for gender equity? 95 years of voting and still only 18% of the electorate.
In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson said, "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair."
President Johnson's statement expressed the reasoning behind the contemporary use of Affirmative Action programs to achieve equal opportunity, particularly in the fields of employment and higher education.
Affirmative Action or positive discrimination; is the policy of favoring members of a disadvantaged group who suffer from discrimination within a culture. It was originally established to give racial minorities and women a leg up because they had historically faced overwhelming discrimination.
The emphasis is on opportunity: Affirmative Action programs are meant to break down barriers, both visible and invisible, to level the playing field and to make sure everyone is given an equal break. No guarantee of equal results, but a belief that that if equality of opportunity were a reality, all groups facing discrimination would have more of an equal opportunity and therefore more of a racial and gender equity would become evident in employment and education.
That is obviously not what has happened to date. Somewhere along the way women became excluded from that consideration. Sexism always a frontrunner in any race for equality. Affirmative action became about giving priority consideration to persons of color, which was a very necessary thing, but women of all races were not accepted as a societal group that should also be granted consideration under that umbrella.
Despite the appalling low statistics of women in government (18%) Forbes 500 CEO’s, (4%) and Corporate boards (15%), many still fight against giving women the 'leg up' that affirmative action was intended to do. Women are conferred 60% of the Master’s degrees in this country and yet make only 78 cents on the dollar in contrast to their male counterparts. Only 20% of the work that is produced on the stage or screen in this country is written by women, meaning that 80% of the stories that are told or perspectives we hear, are male.
1 in 4 women will experience violence by a partner and Domestic Violence causes more deaths for women in America than cancer or traffic accidents.
I could go on citing the inequities, but what I am most astonished by is the notion that while affirmative action has been a rally call for many on the left, their believe in supporting that system did not include women. So many do not acknowledge the need to promote the same ideology to gender as they would so readily agree has been needed to achieve racial parity.
We constantly hear the call for more women in politics and yet when they run, they seem to be given little leeway and in voting practices many progressive men and women don’t give additional consideration to the overwhelming need for gender equity.
It’s maddening because I feel like the dots are not connecting. We need more women in positions of writing laws and governing to create more of a gender balance and perspective in leadership and government, yet the same people who propose to support the concept of affirmative action when it is applied to people of color, do not practice that concept when it comes to women. I have so often heard friends say that they would never vote for a woman just because she’s a woman, and while I agree with that in part, I would not vote for any one who had not committed themselves to the principle platform of the democratic party, I would absolutely vote for a democratic woman, especially because she is a woman.
Especially because we need more women in government. And if they are supporters of democratic principals, pro-choice and pro-equal wage and believe in the same progressive ideas that I do, then hell yes, I’m going to give priority consideration to a woman, because right now 82% of our congress is male and someone has definitely been giving priority consideration to that half of the population for a very long time.
...I Can't Believe She Said That Out Loud...
Dee Jae Cox is a Writer, Director, Producer, Radio Host, Army Veteran, Feminist and a very opinionated woman.
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