Hey, women! You’re more than 50 percent of the population! Are you voting in this election as if your life depended upon it? Are you exercising the right that so many have fought for? Are you showing your power to change lives, to strengthen our country, to stand and be counted?
One of this year’s big political themes has been the “war on women.” As exciting as that sounds as a campaign or fundraising slogan, it really is nothing more than the same old thing, different day. The messages of politicians and pundits who are sounding off about sluts, rape, working women, and breast cancer are only louder and more public, more personal, and more easily spread by the quickness and availability of instant communication. But to act as if this is something new this year is absurd. Women have been facing inequality since way before we fought for the right to vote.
When women act, we change the world. Just ask the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which showed us earlier this year that playing politics was more important than fighting breast cancer. Or look at the response of Rush Limbaugh’s sponsors, whose mass exodus showed us that calling women sluts for expecting insurance coverage for birth control was unacceptable.
The congressmen who feel comfortable excluding women during congressional testimony about reproductive health must understand that this is also unacceptable. The candidates for public office who have made chilling references that attempt to delegitimize rape must not be allowed to represent us. We must push beyond those who do not believe that women deserve respect, equality, equal pay, and equal protection under the law.
We must continue to voice our displeasure by voting in elections and by carefully choosing how we spend our money. Women must speak up, speak out, and vote, vote, vote. We must engage in the political process as candidates, as donors, and as voters. We must honor our foremothers who suffered great indignity, danger, and injury while fighting for the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920. Not exercising that right is an affront to their struggle and to our history.
By being silent and failing to vote, we run the risk of being complicit in the politicization of access to health care, which is so much more than abortion; of a growing acceptance that rape is OK; of the idea that equality in pay should not be expected and that a woman who seeks parity is somehow less desirable as an employee or spouse/partner. Women and men must not allow equality to become a sound bite, an ideal that we hope for and dream about but continue to not attain. We must not continue to allow politicians and those who speak more loudly than us to interrupt our right to demand equality.
This year’s presidential campaign is of huge importance to women. Continued disinterest or lack of participation in the political process will only further embolden the agenda that does not include women as important members of our society. Vote as if your life and your rights depend upon it.
This post was written by Carlynne McDonnell, CEO of the nonprofit Change in Our Lifetime, a 501(c)(3) organization that is committed to reigniting the gender equity dialogue through action, activism, and leadership development.