Female Voters, We Need You

I admit it. I have a terrible voting record. My dad is Republican-leaning and I am a Democrat, so assuming we would cancel each other out, we have lazily ignored most elections. This year, with the midterms approaching, I finally understand that my vote will make a difference. I have been trying to keep up on all the debates involving women’s issues and women candidates (harder than it sounds with three kids and a start-up business).

Recently I heard Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, speak to a small group at the Fourth Annual San Francisco Women’s Policy Summit. The title of her address, “Sarah Doesn’t Speak for Me,” referred to the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, but Schriock spoke mostly about the catastrophes that would befall California should Republican Carly Fiorina oust Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. Hearing a woman whose job is to get women elected to office slamming another woman scared the pants off of me and sent me to my computer to learn more about the candidates.
I have read as many articles and blogs as possible (mostly on my iPhone, while nursing my youngest), and it is still hard to figure out how I am supposed to vote come November. Do I vote Democrat because I believe in the party’s social policies, or do I vote for some of the women running on the Republican ticket because I believe we need more women in office and I’m frustrated that things aren’t changing fast enough?
A recent CBS/New York Times poll suggests that women are less likely than men to vote this year, “giving more of the decision-making to men by default.”

“I’m confused,” an independent poll respondent who voted for President Obama told the Times. “I just don’t know who I can count on to move us in the direction I’d like to see the country go. Frankly, the financial problems are beyond our understanding.”

I understand her point. There are many other issues on the table, and getting information isn’t easy. In my city, the San Francisco Chronicle made the bizarre decision not to endorse either Boxer or Fiorina. If the editors can’t decide, how are we supposed to?
I did quite a bit of research recently on the attorney general race in California, an office Amy Everitt of NARAL Pro-Choice California called “the single most important office for women’s privacy and reproductive health.” I sent letters to both candidates with questions pertaining to women’s issues and health care reform.

Though the Democrat Kamala Harris replied, Republican candidate Steve Cooley refused to answer my letter because, his spokesman told a reporter, I was “friends” with his Democratic opponent (untrue and no excuse not to answer a voter). I could find very little online or onCooley’s website about his position on issues I care about. Since he won’t answer my questions, how am I supposed to know how to vote for this powerful office? (Although the Chronicle has backed Harris, it did not include information on women’s issues in its endorsement.)

So here is what I did learn: Women are the majority of votersWomen are key to the success of the Democratic Party. Men are turning more and more to Republican candidates, and more people are turning to TV, specifically Fox News, for their information.
If women don’t vote — because we are too busy, too exhausted, too angry or too hopeless — we will very likely lose many of the rights we have only gained in my lifetime. The fact that women are debating each other so fervently and from such high places shows me that we have certainly come a long way in at least some areas of women’s rights. And yet there seem to be more and more women arguing against the rights our mothers and grandmothers fought so hard for.
The most heated debate is not over the policies of women politicians such as Sarah Palin or Fiorina, but over whether they should call themselves “feminists.”
I read Jessica Valenti’s op-ed “The Fake Feminism of Sarah Palin” and was dismayed by what she called Palin’s attempt “to sell anti-women policies shrouded in pro-women rhetoric.” Although Valenti lost me at “structural analysis of patriarchal norms,” I was truly horrified by her characterization of Palin’s claim to the feminist label. I ranted to whoever would listen (mostly my husband) that the rights our mothers worked for were being stolen by a woman who had been mayor of a town that charged assault victims for rape kits.
When EMILY’s List kicked off its Sarah Doesn’t Speak for Me campaign, I loved the name and the idea, but the lame video did nothing for me. Those silly costumes were not going to get me to take time out of my too-busy schedule to vote. What will get me to vote are the issues I and many women hold dear, such as preserving the environment, reforming education, upholding civil rights and taking responsibility for helping the disadvantaged in our country.
By not voting we essentially turn our backs on these issues. Let all women call themselves feminists if they want, but do not let them take away our rights this election. Don’t let our communities suffer dire consequences because we feel “confused” and “exhausted.” Geteducated and get out and vote.