Photo Credit: Mei Lamison/Achona Online
Within our school community we commonly use the phrase the “Academy bubble,” alluding to the idea that we (students of the Academy) are safe from the misogynistic and harsh realities of the “real world.”
Yet time and time again, as girls venture beyond the yellow brick, we’ve seen them come to challenge sexism, racism, and unequal opportunity. How is it that our school – a place known for female empowerment, engagement, and encouragement – is so distant from actual reality?
Limited female opportunities and unequal representation are especially prominent in United States politics. We need more women, and this editorial will further explain why.
A woman who ran for president in 1872 was compared to Satan and locked up.
It wasn’t for her emails. https://t.co/JxYrVak0oN
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 12, 2019
The most obvious example of male domination can be seen within our executive branch; there has yet to be a female President.
Hillary Clinton, however, did break boundaries being the first woman candidate nominated by a major party in the 2016 presidential race. Yet, female representation has been scarce in the entirety of executive branch history. The United States Cabinet, for example, has had only 32 female officers, only four serving as Secretary of State (the most senior cabinet position).
Things are beginning to look up. In the current Democratic National Primaries for the 2020 Presidential Election, five women are running alongside 15 men. Whilst the number is still disproportionate, its notable (considering races prior only had up to two women running).
As of right now, it is possible to see another woman on the 2020 ticket. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is currently polling at 17%. She’s falling third behind Senator Bernie Sander’s 19% and Former Vice President Joe Biden’s 27%.
Kirsten Gillibrand was also running, bringing the total number of women fighting for the oval office up to six, although she dropped out of the race in late August.
“I’m glad that more women than ever are running in the current election cycle. These women are not just breaking the glass ceiling, but are advocating for more diversity in the executive branch,” says Megan Smolarick (‘20).
6 women entered the 2020 U.S. presidential race to be the first female president of the United States. 🇺🇸
Since the last U.S. presidential election, 14 women became the first female leaders of their countries. 👩
Here are 9 who are gaining notice. pic.twitter.com/VW6o2b2JJA
— Council on Foreign Relations (@CFR_org) September 10, 2019
Time and time again we’ve seen voters label female candidates as “unelectable.” Our patriarchal society holds women to a completely different standard, constantly connecting them with negative connotations. Female candidates are described as “bossy” rather than “commanding” or “effective.” They are seen as “emotional” rather than “sensitive” or “ empathic.” Men, however, face no such sort of institutionalized characterization – especially so in politics.
“A man can give an order and expect everyone to follow. A women can give that exact same order only to be labeled with negative terms. It’s a normal gender stereotype for a woman to be named bossy,” says Olivia Perez (‘20).
This prompts the question: Why? Why is this typecasting normalized?
Gender stereotyping is not new. Sexism has held women back socially, economically, and politically throughout all of the United States and world history. From the suffragettes, to Roe v. Wade, to the Women’s March – it seems as if women are constantly fighting to uphold their rights within the US justice system. After all, is being systematically equal to men too much to ask?
“Looking back at our history, men have always been at the center of our government. Sadly, women who do enter the political sphere are often ridiculed by the media and public which only discouraged women more. Everything comes down to the repression of rights and opportunities for women throughout history,” says Samantha Cuttle (‘20).
Again, we see a lack of female representation throughout both the House of Representatives and the Senate. While the United States population is 50.8% female, elected women only represent 23.7% of congress.
The 2018 midterm elections, however, proved to be record breaking. Voters elected one of the most diverse congressional classes in history, with 117 women elected or appointed to serve. Some of the most notable electorates include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.
Despite this, female congressional representation is still lacking. On a global scale, for example, the United States ranks 103 in female representation in nation-wide legislatures.
“I think that in order to make proper laws that are fair for the entirety of the United States we need to have someone who represents the people. We need to have sufficient representation of women, who make up over 50% of our population, in our legislative bodies,” says Catie Berg (‘22).
We also see a lack of women serving on the supreme court. Out of the 114 justices who have served, only four have been female. Brett Kavanaugh’s 2019 confirmation made him the 108th white male to sit on the bench.
— RBG (@RBGmovie) March 7, 2018
Of course, the political field is not limited to serving in office, being elected, or being appointed. The political scope extends to lobbyists, judges, campaign strategists, government interns, commentators, journalists, and even political non-profit employees on all federal, state, and local levels. Unfortunately, women face the same, if not arguably more, discrimation within these fields.
While in recent years (most notably in the 2018 midterm election cycle) women have been encouraged, empowered to run for office, most other male dominated political fields remained stagnant. For example, women only compose 35% of political lobbyists.
“Women marched for the right to vote and it happened. Our inclination is to then say it had been solved. But we do a disservice to ourselves by not examining those ends and really looking at the reality. We know obviously women have won the right to vote, but there are women who are more likely to vote than others or are more likely to run in office than others,” says history teacher Stacy Filocco.
Congressional and executive internships perhaps reflect the largest misrepresentation of US society – being that only select groups are able to participate in such opportunities. Males again tend to outnumber females.
“Though they’re only interns, seeing such a lack of diversity in a public office is alarming. I’d hope that those elected to represent us would truly represent all of us,” says Claire Rogan (‘20).
This is incredibly alarming, considering governmental internships are made to affect future politics and political leaders. Something originally made to be opportunistic has only fueled the elite rule (of predominantly straight white men) in American democracy.
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to attend Girls Nation (an American Legion government program where two students are selected from each state to participate in mock senate sessions and meet with various representatives).
Through the program I was able to meet some of our highest elected officials. While it was truly an honor to sit down with the members of these offices, it was disappointing to see the misogyny embedded within our own leaders.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke and answered questions with both Girls and Boys Nation separately. Speaking to the girls, Pence spoke about his family life, specifically his daughters and their published works, his pets, and his lessons learned in politics. However, a few phrases in particular did not fit into the program’s theme of women empowerment.
It was great welcoming the @ALBoysNation and @ALAGirlsNation to the @WhiteHouse today! These young men and women are the future of our country and I am proud of all the wonderful work they do to honor our nation’s veterans and become leaders in our society! pic.twitter.com/Xe1PqHdwa8
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) July 24, 2019
The Vice President emphasized the importance of motherhood, stating that the best way to support America is to raise a family. He noted the greatest American sacrifice is to serve in the armed forces. However, rather than mentioning us directly, Pence mentioned our sacrifice would be having our future sons serve.
Pence also expressed his concern of the “meth coming in from Mexico,” incorporating the Trump administration’s border wall agenda into his “inspirational” speech.
“Ever since the 2016 election, it seems there is a lack of understanding between those in government and US citizens. We don’t want to continue living in a society where a woman’s only role is raising a family. This is why we need more representation of the population,” says Berg.
I, along with my fellow Girls Nation senator and two Boys Nation Senators, was able to have a sit-down meeting with Florida Senator Rick Scott. When Scott entered the room he addressed all four of us, shaking our hands and greeting us with a warm smile. He then turned to the two women in the room, my fellow senator and I, and asked how our morning was and what activities we’ve been doing as part of our program. After our responses, he only directed conversation to the boys, neglecting to answer us as we asked him political questions. He talked solely to Boys Nation about political issues and experience for the remainder of the time.
Each and every day women in United States politics face some type of misogyny. Whether it be subtle mentions or complete neglect, the degrading atmosphere surrounding our government only keeps women out of political office.
“Because I have the unique perspective of a student at an all-girls school, I am exposed to so much more than I otherwise would have been. I think that’s why it’s so disheartening to observe the lack of female representation in government. All day, I am around so many talented girls with the most powerful minds, and it dismays me to live in a world where they may not have the opportunity to show their power and savvy simply because they were born girls. I think it’s so important for us now to see recent changes in our government’s gender imbalance, however small, because it can show us all that we are capable of,” says Asha Sneed (‘21).
The only way to combat the sexism so intertwined in American political identity is to welcome more women in all aspects of our government. While we cannot immediately change the ideology of our elected officials, we can work towards equal representation in our own communities – building female leadership from the ground up.
“It’s not that I think, I know that women are being discouraged from running for office, mainly by their male peers and even some of their female ones. Politics have always been dominated by men, for no other reason besides them taking power and refusing to give it up. For decades no one’s questioned the male dominated atmosphere until recently, simply because that’s just how it’s always been. Their time has been up and I’m overjoyed to see these upcoming female politicians like AOC and Ayanna Pressley,” says Tress Jacobs (‘20).
Women supporting women is how we'll change the face of politics in America. https://t.co/TE9zxxvCAg
— Emerge (@EmergeAmerica) September 9, 2019
The expansion of female leadership doesn’t stop in the political realm. “While it is important to run, it is also just as important to have women in long term positions – this way they can affect change. We need more women who are CEOs, scientific researchers, economic developers. We need more women in all fields,” says Filocco.
As a young woman at Academy, remember that you still can make a difference – in and outside of our yellow brick walls. Participate in youth government programs, call or write your representatives, and register (or preregister) to vote. Never let your gender, nor the stereotypes surrounding it, hold you back.
I believe in our generation. I see the future leaders of American society each and every day in the Academy’s halls. Together, I know we can make long lasting change.