Mayor Annise Parker was recently on the news talking about getting women more involved in politics. In the news clip, Fox 26 mentioned a report by the Women and Politics Institute that says that more men are involved in politics because men think about running for office more than women. Among 2,100 college students, “men were twice as likely as women to have thought about running for office ‘many times,’ whereas women were 20 percentage points more likely than men to never have considered it.” They attribute this to five factors:
- Young men are more likely than young women to be socialized by their parents to think about politics as a career.
- From their school experiences to their peer associations to their media habits, young women tend to be exposed to less political information and discussion than do young men.
- Young men are more likely than young women to have played organized sports and care about winning.
- Young women are less likely than young men to receive encouragement to run for office from anyone.
- Young women are less likely than young men to think they will be qualified to run for office, even once they are established in their careers.
As a woman in politics, I can say that none of those factors applied to me, so maybe that’s why I did become involved (side note: I never really played any sports, but if you’ve ever seen me play a board game, you will quickly see that I like to win). My parents were and still are extremely encouraging. Not only did I grow up hearing my parents have discussions about current events and politics, when I was young, my dad and I used to drink tea a few nights a week and discuss a different political issue. He would take the opposite view of mine just so that I would have to argue my point of view. It is unfortunate that more girls (and boys) don’t have parents like this to encourage them to do anything in life that they want.
I agree with the study’s five factors about why women aren’t more involved in politics, but I would go a step further. I think many women, especially young women, don’t get involved in politics because of the fact that it is still very difficult to be taken seriously as a woman in politics, even for the women who have a passion for it. You have to be pretty, but if you’re too pretty, you’re not taken seriously. You have to be nice, but if you’re too nice, people think you aren’t tough on the issues. You have to be tough, but if you’re too tough, everyone thinks you’re a witch. You have to come across as strong, but you also have to have keep your femininity. If a woman running for office isn’t married, people wonder what’s wrong with her. If a man isn’t married, people think that he is just career-focused. If a woman is married, people wonder how she will be able to take care of the kids if elected. Men aren’t asked about their kids. If a woman is rich, people automatically ask what their husband does for a living. If a man is rich, people ask them about their career background.
Unfortunately more often than not, these criticisms come from women!! Ladies, until we stop being critical of each other, we will continue to be the minority in politics. Instead of knocking each other down for how we dress and how we look, we need to build each other up and offer encouragement and support. Of course, I am not advocating voting for someone just because they are a woman (or a man). If the male candidate is more qualified than the woman, then by all means, vote for the man, but don’t knock the female candidate down for putting herself on the ballot.
Not only am I a woman, but I am a young woman. I understand that most people my age aren’t running for political office, but I will not tolerate being discounted just because I am a young woman. I am a serious candidate with more experience in this field than any of my older opponents. I will fight for my constituents and for the issues that are important to them. I welcome criticism, but when I get criticized by women for nothing other than being a woman or a young woman, it makes me sad for our future generation and for the young girls out there who will have to go through the same thing if we don’t change this now.
Ladies, join me in encouraging other women to run for office and/or to be knowledgeable about the issues and involved in the election process. Politics might still be a man’s game, but it’s time to show the world that women are every bit as qualified to play the game too.