Since the 2016 presidential election, women are paying increased attention to politics. In Jan. 2017, they marched all over the world to advocate women’s rights and the rights of marginalized groups. This January, they took to the streets again in an effort to get more women to register to vote and elect more women into office. Social media campaigns like #metoo and #timesup, concerning sexual assault, harassment, and inequality in the workplace, are getting more attention than ever before. Despite extensive efforts of women in the past year, women’s reproductive rights are in constant negotiation. They’re still struggling to break through that glass ceiling to give women and people of color equal opportunities to advance in their field of work and receive fair and equal pay.
Fortunately, more women are planning to run for the House of Representatives than any point in American history, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Women held 20 percent of the seats in congress, yet they carried out 53 percent of the dialogue on sexual assault and harassment in 2017, according to Quorum Analytics.
“Women in power, specifically political power, need the support of women,” said Christie Howley, director of Violence Prevention, Victim Assistance and Education at Rutgers—Newark. “If women in power don’t have the support of the women they are trying to speak for, they will lose whatever noise they were beginning to make.” Here’s how to stay in the know and support the women who are working hard to protect your rights:
1. Start local. Find out who the female members of legislature are in your state and district. Become familiar with their names, backgrounds and what they stand for so you can follow what they’re working on. This will help you take notice when their names come up in local news stories. Websites like njleg.state.nj.us make it especially simple to find members of legislature in your state and district. Emily’s List keeps a record of women running for office on state and national levels.
2. Support organizations that help women run for office. Organizations like Women’s Campaign Fund and She Should Run are dedicated to supporting women who are interested in running for office on state and national levels. Women’s Campaign Fund, founded in 1974, was the first political action committee in the United States to support women. She Should Run has an initiative to get 250,000 women to run for office by 2030. Find an organization or two that you admire, follow them, join them and donate when you can.
3. Keep up on bills that are sponsored by women. In New Jersey, Assemblywoman Joann Downey is currently working on passing a bill to protect New Jersey students from a practice called “passing the trash,” when teachers who have been accused of sexual assault and misconduct are able to move on to other jobs that allow them to continue working with students. When you become familiar with your female legislatures, it will become easier to follow the bills they are sponsoring through websites like billtrack50.com and local news sites.
4. Keep track of who is running for office. Read political magazines and magazines that are for women, by women. Time Magazine just featured a cover story about women who are running for office. Newsweek just distributed a special edition, focusing on leaders in the fight for feminism. Bustle just featured a story about how to access the “Black women in politics database” to help women find and support Black women running for office. When all else fails, Google “women in politics” and click the “news” option.
5. Talk about it. Keep an open dialogue with the women in your circle. Ask them questions about which women in office they’re familiar with. Let them know when you find an interesting article about a new bill that was just passed or a woman running for office. The more you chat about it, the more natural it will become to carry on these important discussions.
Image & Cover Image Source: @debracartwright