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“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
We are teenagers. We like to hang out with friends and have sleepovers. We go to parties. We try new things and meet new people. While we are focused on keeping our grades up, having a social life and finding our place in the world, there is one thing missing: Most of us could care less about our country’s future. Most of us do not know what Congress is, do not know what each political party stand for and have never heard of influential women like Kirsten Gillibrand or Nancy Pelosi. The basic knowledge of a teenager extends to who the President is and a few simple duties a President holds. Not only do we lack interest in the world around us, but we lack ambition. We do not strive to change the country politically. Why? We are not motivated.
Us young women will see successful women politicians in the media, such as Hillary Clinton, and notice how much work they are doing for this country. Rarely do young women think to themselves, “I will do what she does when I’m an adult”. Most of us will either see the work that these accomplished women do and appreciate it, or ignore it as a whole, rather than telling ourselves that we can follow in their footsteps and make major changes, like they have, in our country.
The majority of young women in the United States seem to act as if change will happen by a person who is motivated and assume change will occur automatically with no effort put in to it. Young women have to start realizing that change happens by everyday people that want to help this country and make it a better place to reside in. Anyone can make change, but it only happens if one sets their mind to the possibilities.
In the world of politics, many aspects need to be fixed, especially when dealing with issues pertaining to women. The attacks on women’s health needs to diminish. Sexism needs to stop occurring. More Democratic women need to be elected to move this country forward. Little girls and young women need role models to look up to and so we strive to start setting goals for ourselves. We have so much to work on as a country. But, where do we start? How do we motivate young women to notice how much needs to be changed in this country? It is not going to be a simple, step-by-step process, but it is possible.
To start with, we have to be aware of the alarming statistics about women in politics in the United States. Our gender is not represented equally in political offices, including the number of women that are Governors, Congress members, Cabinet members, etc. To be even more specific, Democratic women are not represented equally in these offices. As the Democratic Party is in the majority nationwide, women are still in the minority regarding these offices. Women currently make up nineteen percent of Congress as a whole, and in the Senate, there are only twenty women Senators, fifteen of which are Democrats. Regarding how many women are Governors, there are four. Out of the four, there is only one Democratic Governor, Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire.
To change the current statistics of women and our involvement in politics, we have to show women of current generations and the next generations to come how important it is to change the world and to make change that is possible for each individual. For women that want to change the world, they find it easiest to do so by running for office. According to CAWP Rutgers (http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/research/reports/PoisedtoRun.pdf), about one-third of women say that someone tried to discourage them from running, most often an officeholder or political party official. When women from my generation have the chance to run for office, it is important that we are not discouraged to run, because we have so much to offer. We bring diversity to the table, we have new voices that need to be heard and we understand what our generations is at stake for. If we want to make change politically, we have to get involved, specifically in the Democratic Party. The party represents our best interests, including making decisions about our own body and health, advocating for equality when dealing with the LGBTQ community, caring about our environment and creating effective plans for our economy. As many young people, including young women, that participate in the political process are Democrats, not enough young women are involved to make an impacting difference on our country through the party. Seeing a Senator make a difference is wonderful, but following in her footsteps is even better. We have to aspire to make change, but not necessarily be an exact replica of the one’s who inspire us. We have to make our own lives for ourselves and our own changes that are possible for us personally.
Not only will showing young women how important it is to get motivated and to change the current statistics of women in politics, but treating women equally in the media makes more women comfortable of being in the spotlight. Often times when women run for office, the media will focus on aspects of the woman that is irrelevant to her credentials. A perfect example is when Hillary Clinton ran for President in 2008 for the Democratic nomination. From her hair to her colorful pant suits, it seems all the media cared about was her appearance rather than what she had to say. This arouse the topic of what is appropriate to talk about when discussing politicians and candidates when they are running for office or in office. Even in 2013, the media still focuses on appearance, but we are making progress. Thanks to social media, Americans can call out sexism so much easier than before, simply with just a tweet or Facebook status. When the media focuses strictly on someone’s appearance rather than the issues, media sources are called out for focusing on something very irrelevant to the discussion and can influence the certain media sources to talk about more appropriate aspects of the politician or candidate. We still have much work to do, but we’re getting closer to diminishing this type of demeaning sexism.
Finally, to get more young women motivated and showing them the benefits of the political process when wanting to make change, the women from older generations need to value my generation’s opinions and our stances. As many older women openly support my generation and our involvement, some do not have faith in us. They rather think of us as a “failed generation”, who rejected the idea of continuing the equality movements, that we are the women do not appreciate their hard work they endured, and that we are all okay with an average lifestyle. While many young women are very uneducated on the older generation’s work and all they did to assist us, once we motivate and educate young women, more of my generation will be proud and appreciate the difficult work that these older women did. An uneducated generation can make no progress. Education is vital in motivation and when a generation wants to be valued.
From programs like Running Start and movements like Off the Sidelines, to women like Hillary Clinton, Kirsten Gillibrand and Nancy Pelosi, motivation, equality and the value of young voices is vital to having more young women involved in the political process and making a difference in our country. More Democratic women need to get elected to stand up for important issues, especially issues dealing with women’s health, the economy, the environment, civil rights, etc. Starting the process of involvement is not simple and will take a while at the rate we are at in the United States, but it is certainly possible. Although one cannot force young women to get involved, inspiring, motivating and showing my generation how vital it is to make change in this country, will send the message across to all of us. We have to know that change is not automatic and is made by everyday people. From professions like teachers, actresses, politicians and business owners, people do make political change often, whether it is election time or it is just simple as endorsing a piece of legislation. The time to get involved is NOW.
So, what are you waiting for? There is a country out there that needs your help, and you’re living in that country.