On Being a Feminist in Election Season

There are many reasons to be all sorts of disheartened and frustrated during election season. Being a voting, civic-minded feminist trying to stick to principles without having your brain explode can be one of them. 

First, you’re usually left picking from among a pool of predominantly white, rich men. This, of course, is shifting and more women and minorities and openly gay candidates are on the field. However, particularly for presidential elections, the season serves as yet another reminder that Liberia has a woman president and we never have. Elections for Congress are no comfort on that front, either: women make up 17% of our representatives. Whoa. I mean, even Iraq’s quota-enforced 25% has us beat on that.

It also serves as a sad reminder that it’s wildly uncool to be a feminist. No presidential candidate would stand up in front of a rally and say “This is what a feminist looks like!” Unless that candidate’s actual goal was not to get elected. So while it’s perfectly standard for candidates to run on platforms that essentially attack women’s rights, it’s never kosher to publicly ally oneself with something like feminism. 

But the frustrations aren’t over. Like with Sarah Palin last election and Michele Bachmann this election, there is the painful truth of exactly why women in power is such a tricky business. Because, honestly, there is no good and decent universe in which people like those two deserve to be put into power. Stats and percentages and women on the campaign trail in their pantsuits are not enough. As a feminist, you also have to recognize that it’s not about just women in power, it’s about women’s rights in power. It’s about having genuine feminism and progressivism as political goals. 

One of the most difficult things for me as a feminist in election season is found in the tricky waters of how the women who are in politics are treated both by the media, the public and their colleagues. How do you make it heard within the system that referring to women with foreign policy power as harpies, talking about “playing the gender card”, and discussing in-depth the fashion choices of female candidates isn’t alright? Where do I go to vote no on all of that? When people start treating the Michele Bachmanns and Sarah Palins in a sexist manner, it’s my job as a feminist to call that out, not my job as a registered Democrat to pile on in the name of the party. That can and has put me in an unpopular position: the Democrat who defends people like Palin and Bachmann against the voices of people on whose side I am supposed to be. Except forever and always, the side I will be on is the side of feminism, and that continually excludes me from joining in carelessly with a lot of mainstream rhetoric and sentiment during election season.

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    thiiiiis. Some guy was going to door-to-door campaigning for Generic White Republican candidate and I asked him, point...
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    I self-identify as feminist as well. (Sidebar: Should a dude even do that? Even as he sometimes uses products that run...
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