By: Devin Riggs, Regular Contributor
When people say I should go back to social media and wait till I’ve had enough life experience to vote, it makes me angry. It invalidates the experiences I have had and it ignores future experiences I may have based on the decisions of my government representatives.
My freedoms and my rights are not a joke.
I feel underrepresented. I feel unheard. I feel shut out.
It’s upsetting to know that in January 2013, out of 535 members of Congress only 99 of them were women. That is 18.5%. The new Congress meeting for the first time this month has roughly the same percentage*. With half America’s population being women, that’s not what I call equal representation.
That’s why it’s so important to shine light on women who are making a difference in our government, who are fighting for us, who are making sure we are heard.
Mia Love, a firm believer in working hard and being self-reliant, became the first black Republican woman in Congress in last fall’s midterm elections. Love is also the first Haitian American to be elected, as her parents are both immigrants. I wish that in 2015 we weren’t still marking “first ___ to be elected.” I wish this was common place, unsurprising, and so normal that we didn’t need to celebrate it as a victory towards better representation across the spectrum of our country. I wish we didn’t have to make a big deal about it, but it is a big deal.
Love started as an activist in her neighborhood, then became a member of the city council which led to her being mayor of Saratoga Springs, UT. She lost her first run for Congress in 2012 but came back to win the seat in 2014 proving that perseverance and determination are key to surviving, and thriving in the aggressive atmosphere that is politics.
Elizabeth Warren has made it her goal to help middle class families grow and prosper. She started her career as an elementary school teacher. After practicing law she became a professor at Harvard Law School before moving into politics.
As the first female Senator from Massachusetts, Warren has been a fierce presence in the Senate since 2013 and though she has denied any inclination to run for president in 2016, hundreds of thousands of people think she should. It’s a testament to her drive, dedication, and experience that so many believe she is a good fit for the job. Whether she wants it or not, is up to her.
Clinton has been a leader in government for well over two decades, as First Lady and then as a senator (the first woman for New York) and Secretary of State. She ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Clinton has proven herself in many different roles to be strong and steadfast.
She has pioneered a lot of opportunities for women in the world of politics, not because that was her goal, but because she is a driving force. Her gender, to quote a character from BBC America’s Orphan Black, “is not the most interesting thing about [her].” Nor is it what defines her as a person.
Whether you agree with their beliefs and stances or not, we need more women like these in our government. We need strong, determined women who push the boundaries of what’s possible. We need women who not only make the best of their position but also create opportunities for others to do the same.
I want my government to be filled with mothers, teachers, and lawyers. And doctors, engineers, and farmers. I want it to embrace the entirety of what America has to offer its citizens, especially the women, who for so long have not been heard.
I was voted by my fifth grade class as, “Most Likely to Become President of the United States.” I had no dreams of it then, nor do I at this point in my life. Instead I chose to follow the path of the other recognition I received, “Most Likely to Become a Teacher.” Both of these recognitions taught me that there is something in telling 10-year-old girls that they can change the world. There is a freedom given in that statement, to know we can do anything we set our minds to. We’re not just a pretty face, or a side note to the accomplishments of men.
I want the girls of America to know that, like these women I mentioned, you can get involved. You can start a movement. You can work your way to the top job with hard work and perseverance. You can change the world. You have a voice.
Why do you feel that women are so underrepresented in politics? What can we do collectively and individually to help incite change?
Devin has a degree in education with a focus in English. She is working to publish her first collection of poetry while also learning the art of patience. Her passions include Doctor Who, penguins, hats and scarves, potatoes, dancing, photography, and making people happy. She believes in the healing powers of music, spending time in the great outdoors, and a good night sleep.