This International Women's Day female political participation goes beyond pussy hats and ‘Pussy Power’ | Bleader

Thursday, March 8, 2018

This International Women's Day female political participation goes beyond pussy hats and ‘Pussy Power’

Posted By on 03.08.18 at 01:31 PM

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click to enlarge ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

There are no major protests or demonstrations in Chicago today on International Women's Day—but that doesn’t mean women are ignoring the push for pay equity, reproductive justice, and gender parity. Instead, more women are getting politically active: they’re planning to vote, become activists, or run for office themselves.

On last year's International Women's Day, the Day Without a Woman protest called for women to walk off their jobs to show the importance of their contributions to the workforce. This year's theme is #PressforProgress, in response to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, which predicts it will take 168 years to close the gender gap in four main areas—economics, politics, education, and health—in North America. It’s also a nod towards the growing activism of the #MeToo and #TimesUp era, a reaction to Donald Trump’s presidency, and a follow-up to the Women’s March in January—attended by 300,000 Chicagoans—where the slogan Power to the Polls encouraged women to vote and run for office themselves.

Ambria Taylor, a 30-year-old University of Chicago grad student, says she's noticed a change in many women’s attitudes since 2016.

"In a lot of the spaces I've been in, I used to see a lot of women be more passive and say 'I’m not very political,' but now they’re like, 'Enough of this shit,'" she says. "I think it’s good that we can create a community that it's easier and more comfortable for women to be more politically active."

On the eve of International Women's Day, Taylor took the stage during Russian feminist punk band/protest group Pussy Riot’s show at the Subterranean to talk to an overwhelmingly female audience about the importance of engagement in politics.

"It was great because usually it's a lot of men that come up to our table to talk, but last night was a unique opportunity to talk to women—women can do politics!" says Taylor.

There is evidence that the gender gap is shrinking when it comes to political participation. Since the American National Election Study (ANES) began studying public opinion and election behavior in 1948, men have been more likely than women to say they pay attention to politics all or most of the time. But a 2018 poll of more than 2,000 Americans ages 15-24 sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute and MTV found that young women expressed higher levels of political and civic engagement than young men.

Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold says she’s she’s seen more young women wanting to volunteer for her campaign or shadow staffers for a day.

"I absolutely think that the #MeToo movement has galvanized women to recognize that their voices and their stories matter and that being actively involved in the process can make a difference," says Harold. "I think that is reflective to the fact that they're understanding that their stories have power and that they actually have the ability to make changes and make government more responsive to their concerns."

In 2018, women are also running for office in record numbers—overwhelmingly as progressive Democrats. More than 664 women—about 70 percent of them Democrats—are running or are expected to run for state and national offices this year, according to an analysis by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. The number of women planning to challenge Democratic incumbents in the U.S. House is up nearly 350 percent from 2016. Since Trump’s election, more than 26,000 women have reached out to Emily’s List, an organization that recruits and trains pro-choice candidates, about the possibility of launching a campaign.

click to enlarge Alma Anaya - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • Alma Anaya

Alma Anaya is part of this unprecedented surge of female candidates. The 28-year-old is running to replace Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who is vacating his seat to run for Congress. Women's issues, she says, are a major part of many candidates' platforms.

"It's something that's now being addressed a little more forward," she continues. "In talking about women’s health, the movement, and making sure that women are presented and that decisions aren't being made without them at the table.

"It’s almost like, 'Hey, listen to our issues. These are the things you need to be running on or else we're going to stick together, and we're going to either vote you out of office or we’re going to be there protesting,' which is amazing."

Sun-Times journalist Tina Sfondeles contributed reporting to this story.

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