Let’s hear it for the girls: The value of women in politics

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Ingrid Hofmann

With women being severely underrepresented in politics, there is a dire need for women in politics in the United States.

By Ingrid Hofmann, Pleasant Valley High School - IA

With 2020 marking the 100 year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, long should be the days where women’s rights are still a source of partisan polarization.

The monumental 19th Amendment gave women the opportunity to voice their opinions and advocate for their beliefs — effectively redefining American politics. Despite this extraordinary victory, women’s integral roles in politics are still severely lacking.

Women account for approximately 51 percent of the United States’ population, but they only constitute a mere 10 federal office positions, 23.7 percent of the 535 seats in Congress, 28.9 percent of the 311 statewide executive positions and 29.3 percent of the 7,383 seats in state legislatures.

This lack of women in politics does not stem from lack of ambition. Instead, women are often deterred from political office due to the patriarchal nature of government, officially known as the political ambition gap.

How can the United States consider itself one of the best nations in the world when such a large portion of its population is severely underrepresented? Nearly 60 countries, including England, New Zealand and India, have all had a woman as their head of state far before the United States.

Even with the impressive strides made by political pioneers such as Jeannette Rankin, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Madeleine Albright, Sandra Day O’Connor and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the proportion of women in politics compared to the population of women is acutely underwhelming.

These disproportionate numbers have a detrimental effect on women across the country.

In the male-dominated field of politics, the lack of female representation has negative influence — specifically when it comes to decisions. Junior Jayne Abraham lamented the fact that the common politician is often male — despite representing a far more diverse demographic.

“White, cis-gendered, straight men cannot make the decisions for marginalized communities, as seems to often be the case in politics. More decisions in politics need to be made by women for women,” she voiced.

The opportunity to see women in positions of power — standing up for those who do not have a voice — is invigorating, empowering and galvanizing. “By being in politics, women can advocate for and inspire other women. Women in politics are changing the narrative of what it means to be a politician for the better everyday,” Abraham added.

The importance of women in politics not only supports more accurate representation, but also provides innumerable role models for young girls.

Senior Muskan Basnet emphasized the importance of good representation in male-dominated fields for young girls. “Growing up seeing female representation anywhere is important for young girls. Seeing so many men in politics making decisions for people who they don’t understand is discouraging for young girls,” she explained.

Young girls are often limited in female role models which leaves many to idolize self-centered creators who often promote harmful body images.

Political women, however, often are fighting to bring greater change to society. “For younger girls it is inspiring to see women in politics, especially if that is something they are interested in,” Basnet noted.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is a prominent political figure who has captured the interests of young women and become a highly regarded role model for many, including Abraham and Basnet.

Since taking office in 2019, AOC has heavily advocated for actions to be taken against climate change, fought back against the conditions of Immigrations and Customs Enforcements (ICE) detention centers and, most importantly, created genuine connections with her fans, whether it is through Instagram lives or playing Among Us via Twitch.

AOC’s bursting through glass ceilings, though, is what has made her so admirable for many young women. “Seeing [AOC] become a politician at such a young age is really inspiring to me. Her personality is also something that intrigues me. Despite being in politics and in the face of the media, she stays true to what she believes in,” Basnet shared.

One of the biggest inspirations for Abraham and Basnet was AOC’s recent response to Senator Ted Yoho of Florida, after he accosted AOC using demeaning and demoralizing language and placing his finger in her face.

A few days later, AOC delivered a speech where she called out Yoho — who has two daughters himself — for his toxic behavior, explaining how her parents taught her “not to take abuse from men.” This response and message resonated heavily among countless women as the speech became a trending TikTok sound — only proving how influential strong women in politics can be.

An increase of women in politics will not happen overnight. However, encouraging young women’s political interests and supporting strong, qualified female candidates’ campaigns are two ways to heighten the number of women who run for office and hopefully are elected.

It is imperative women feel adequately represented and empowered by their leadership. It is imperative women know they too can be the President of the United States. It is imperative young girls are given the appropriate and inspiring role models they deserve.

For the sake of women across the country, the United States needs more women in politics.

This story was originally published on Spartan Shield on November 10, 2020.