From the Women’s March to the #MeToo movement, the world has seen a culture shift when it comes to women demanding respect from those in charge. Now, hundreds of women across the country are embarking on a new challenge — becoming in charge themselves.
May marks the halfway point to the 2018 midterm elections, which will take place on Nov. 6. At least 575 women have declared their intentions to run for the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate or governor, which is more than any other midterm year in history, according to a May 2018 report from the Center for American Women and Politics.
Since the beginning of our nation’s democracy, public office has been dominated by older, white males. 70 percent of the country’s population is made of women and people of color, and yet 71 percent of seats in Congress are held by white men, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center report. How is it possible for those on Capitol Hill to be called “representatives” when the vast majority of Americans are absent from representation?
This year, constituents are not just seeing female candidates on the ballot. They are seeing millenial women on the ballot. They are seeing women of color run for office. They are seeing LGBTQ+ women running for office. This is not a move to be politically correct, but rather, a move that is politically necessary.
Taking the place of the baby boomers as the nation’s highest living adult generation, millennials are aging into the political scene, bringing new and diverse perspectives to a government which has been stuck it its ways for decades. Some Democratic female primary candidates, such as 29-year-old Sara Jacobs, have campained using her generational difference to her advantage. If elected, Jacobs would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
“I think that a lot of what we're asking of women politicians is to speak like men, when I actually think we should be running campaigns like women,” Jacobs said in a 2018 interview with Cosmopolitan Magazine. “Our system is broken and needs to change, and that starts by changing the face of power in this country.”
In addition to younger women, women of color have also risen to the scene of politics in this election cycle. Of the 1,878 women state legislators serving nationwide, 454 (or 24.2 percent) are women of color, according to the Rutgers’ Center of American Women and Politics. Communities of color are most likely to be impacted by inequitable societal factors, such as housing, education and the criminal justice system. With a platform that draws from her own experience of struggling for a better life, Stacey Abrams has used past disadvantages to advocate for the underrepresented in the state of Georgia.
“I know that the governor has the ability to affect the lives of millions of Georgians. To advance the issues of healthcare and access of education, to protect women’s rights and to make certain that civil rights are available to all,” Abrams, who is the first black women in American history to win a nomination for governor, said in a CNN interview last Thursday.
Even long before Trump’s infamous escalator ride to announce his controversial run for president, American women have too often seen and lived out the consequences of male-enforced policy. From women’s reproductive rights to equal pay, male lawmakers in the country are guilty of voting for legislation that they will never face the consequences of. This is America’s normal, but many of these women now running for office are here to make that normal new.
The challenge of change has long been evident in our democracy. Partisan politics has run deep on both sides. Senators and representatives have grown comfortable in their seats on Capitol Hill, with some having been there for decades. Change is overdue in our country, and for the sake of progress, Americans must be desperate for it.
As time goes on, our nation has evolved. We’ve seen it evolve with revolution, as seen with the rise of female faces leading movements such as #NeverAgain and #BlackLivesMatter. We’ve seen it evolve with rebellion, as seen with the breaking of silence against sexual harassment. We now must see it in representation, as we come to accept the crashing pink wave of women who are fighting to close the diversity gap in American politics.