On Tuesday, September 4th, Joan Mandle, Executive Director of Democracy Matters, and David Butler ’13 facilitated the Brown Bag about Women and Politics in 2012. David started off the discussion by reading off statistics about female representation in our government. One of the most prominent figures is that women are 51% of the population and yet only 17% of Congress is comprised of women. In a government designed to represent the people, the numbers clearly do not support this ideal. News flash: As feminists, we are not okay with this.
The conversation quickly turned into why there is a lack of female representation in our government. The most well known reasons are the glass-ceiling and what is expected of women/mothers in our society. Joan Mandle offered another explanation as to why women are seriously underrepresented in our government. Thus far in the presidential election, Barack Obama has raised $348,413,128 and Mitt Romney has raised $193,373,762 totaling around half a billion dollars. (If you like more information about the breakdown of the money I would recommend browsing opensecrets.org.) It is important to note that none of this money comes from federal funds, only private funding. Joan suggested that in this day and age, getting elected president isn’t based on the policies, but rather who can raise and spend the most amount of money. This leads us into why women are seriously underrepresented in government. Generally when women have children they either drop out of the workforce or take on a part time job thus decreasing their annual average income. In a political system where election is heavily influence by supporting a candidate financially, women have very little say compared to men. I’m not saying that women will automatically vote for any female candidate, but it is more difficult for women to support a developing female politician. Thus, as with any feminist issue, the lack of female representation in government is not one-dimensional. A variety of factors as the individual, social, and institutional level contribute to the serious gap in female representation.
Democracy Matters aims to “get private money out of politics and people back in.” Thus, Joan advocated that we, as students, really needed to register and vote for the upcoming election. Our voices do matter even if we are broke and have no financial contribution. However, if students become invested in politics, we can turn around politics and make it less about the money and more about the policy. So, long story short, REGISTER TO VOTE!
-Michelle Van Veen '14