A guest post by Bettina Duval
First Iowa . . . then New Hampshire . . . and once again in Nevada! Women voters are dominating at the polls!!!
In all three contests the percentage of female to male voters was a consistent 60% to 40%. The reality behind these percentages is even more significant because the number of total voters is also greater than ever before.
Why is this happening? It was former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil who said, “All politics are local.” Local issues are often about education, health care, child care – issues which resonate most strongly with women. Our individual experiences define our needs and our dreams and in turn our needs and dreams mold our opinions. Women are voting in greater numbers in this primary because there is a woman running for president.
The “near death” experience in Iowa did several things. One is that it raised the possibility of NO HILLARY. Up until that time, the thought that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t at least be a contender until the very end was unthinkable. But 3rd in Iowa made her candidacy look like it could fail. Then, instead of shooting at her flaws, woman had to consider the alternatives. The alternatives were not just Barack Obama or John Edwards, but the alternative of no Hillary Clinton.
So, suddenly, a whole segment of the electorate — i.e. women — had to decide if they were really for Hillary or not. Many have decided that they are not supporting Hillary Clinton. Many women are for Hillary Clinton. It was, in my opinion, personal.
It sounds so cliquish to assert that women are voting for Hillary because she is a woman. It might seem socially and politically incorrect, but if you are a woman it isn’t a cliché, that is your reality. The cliques are reality. Women are still paid less than a man for the same job. Women are still underrepresented in government. It’s even worse for women of ethnic minorities.
I was raised during the 1960’s by a single mom who was a teacher. I clearly remember purchasing our first house . . . and that my grandfather had to co-sign the loan documents. Just 35 years ago, in California, a woman could not get credit without a male cosigner. By law, her husband had management and control over their community property. Experiences like that have shaped my life and motivated me to continue to support women running for office. A woman’s point of view is essential to the political future of our country. I am reminded constantly that women’s rights, beginning with the right to participate, are born of struggle, not of privilege. It is a struggle which is truly just beginning, a struggle critical to the future.
Today we have a woman running for president. My how things seem to have changed! With the passing of the Equal Opportunity Act in 1974, women began to claim their place in business and politics. So called “girl power” and other ideas about feminism were all the rage throughout the eighties and nineties. But gender politics still exist today, just in a different form. We have been thrust into a new paradox – bringing women and their point of view into the process, but “dressing” it in a grey pinstriped suit. The alienation of femininity, and the isolation from “all things female” that we embraced in an effort to fit into a system created by men and for men was, in some ways, a deal made with the devil.
As I write this, I am at a volleyball tournament for my 14-year old daughter. I’m surrounded by at least a hundred 14-year old girls. As I look around I can’t help but wonder what experiences will shape their political voice – will it be Hillary Clinton’s run for president or America’s Next Top Model? I don’t know the answer, but just having Hillary Clinton as a candidate can only help today’s young women at least believe that they can be president themselves.
Bettina Duval is the founder of the California List, a political fundraising network that helps elect Democratic women to all branches of California state government.