by Whitney Pitcher
Today marks the 92nd anniversary of the day when Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the 19th amendment. With this, women were granted the right to vote–a right fought for by many from Abigail Adams in her letters to the Constitutional Convention to pioneers like Susan B.Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The right to vote is indeed an honor granted by the democratic processes of our Republic outlined in the Constitution. It seems though that in the years that have followed since women were granted suffrage that this great opportunity has been diminished–not that opportunities to vote have diminished, but that more and more it has been viewed as collective statement, rather than an individual’s opportunity.
Last weekend, I visited the Illinois State Fair and decided to pop into the Illinois Democratic Party tent. It was pretty much your standard political tent with flags, politicians’ photos and literature, but one of the pieces of literature stood out to me– the Illinois Democratic Women’s flyer seen below:
To be sure, any literature from a political party is going to be partisan by default, but I was a bit surprised by the line, “when women vote Democrats win”. With the exception of the 2010 election, the majority of women have voted Democratic in elections. However, there are two things wrong with this type of message: 1) it’s about party power not about improving the state 2) it tries to make a statement about how women vote as a collective–thus diminishing the individual woman.
I don’t particularly identify with any political party. Both parties have made government too big and too full of cronyism and corruption. I grew up in a conservative home, but I’ve voted Republican, Green Party, and Democrat in various elections in the past ten years–even for Barack Obama when he ran for Senate in 2004 (I was in college–youthful indiscretion). In the last few years, my political ideology has solidified as some conservatarian hybrid. Nonetheless, regardless of whether or not I, as a woman (or as an American in general) identify with a party, I’m sick of how the Democratic party projects their beliefs onto all women as if we’re all supposed to walk in lock step. Why did the Illinois Democratic Women assume that women all women vote Democratic? In their laughable attempt to win female votes, why did the Obama campaign’s graphic artist depict “Julia” without a mouth?
Is that because President Obama speaks for her, and she’s not allowed to speak for herself? Additionally, why does the Obama campaign call Paul Ryan bad for women? For a party that prides itself on “female empowerment”, it is certainly hypocritical for them to support the idea that taxpayers should pay for a woman’s divorce between sex and personal responsibility. Why does Code Pink think that dressing up as vaginas will help their cause? Are they simply trying to show which organ they will vote with rather than their brains? All of these are examples of projection of party ideology onto individual women.
Women vote across all party lines, and all parties indeed want their vote. However, far too often the Democratic party gives their collectivist answer without asking the question–what do women want? They assume that women want the government to do things for them, rather than to stop doing things to them. In this “war on women”, too often women have become the grenades. This is true of both major parties. The Democrats raised money off of Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke, and the Romney campaign raised money off of Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney–both in attempts to win the “women’s vote”. There’s no such thing as the “women’s vote”. There is a woman’s vote; there are tens of millions of these across the country–each with a different perspective and different priorities. I’m so thankful to live in a country where I have the opportunity to vote as a woman. As I wrote this past spring:
The voice of women has made a huge impact at the ballot box, but the “women’s vote” is not a collective declaration. Rather, the “women’s vote” is a collection of individual women’s decisions based upon their priorities. A CNN poll performed late last month indicated that 54% of women saw the economy as the most important issue with 16% and 14% of women stating that the federal budget deficit and healthcare were the most important issues respectively. The remaining 16% of women thought that either the situation in Afghanistan, illegal immigration, terrorism, or gay and lesbian policies were the most important issues. Suffice it to say, each women has a unique set of priorities when it comes to how they vote, and women’s opinions on how these priorities should be as a means of policy fall all along the political spectrum.
While the Democratic party wish to project their views onto all women, it an individual woman’s choice to cast her vote how she chooses–just as it is for a man. It’s not the women’s vote; it’s a woman’s vote.