Thoughts On The Mid-Terms
The 2018 Mid-Term Elections arrived last week with the frenzy of a Hamilton lottery. I woke up a bit early to make sure I had time to vote before work. In full transparency, for a brief moment I did think about going after work to ensure I didn’t miss my daily morning work meeting (Election Day seriously needs to be a holiday), but I was worried that watching the events unfold online may tempt me into not voting at all. That simply wasn’t an option for me. I was going to vote and ensure my values were heard by the powers that be.
So I voted and after work I came home to settle in and watch the results. I can’t remember the last time I tuned in to watch the mid-term results, so I was a bit startled with the sheer number of races coming in and the back and forth of it all. Even though I’ve taken graduate-level statistics courses the projections can be mind-boggling. From calling one race with 1% of the vote to projecting a winner who is currently not winning, it is a lot for the brain to process.
There was also a lot to celebrate! There were so many Firsts in the last election and I was ready for even more this time around. It is beyond crazy that it is 2018 we still have Firsts, but alas we can’t focus on how long it’s taken and instead need to celebrate the wins. Anyway… pop the champagne for:
Ayanna Presley became the first Black congresswoman in Massachusetts!
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest person ever in the House of Representatives!
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar became the first Muslin women ever elected to Congress!
Rachel Rollins became the first woman and the first African American to be elected District Attorney of Suffolk County in Massachusetts!
Jared Polis of Colorado became the first openly gay man to be elected Governor in US History!
Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo from New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation from Kansas, will be the first Native American women to serve in Congress!
And for the first time we’ll have over 100 women in the House of Representatives!
It wasn’t until the next day when the pundits starting debating if this really was a blue wave blah blah blah, when another talking point caught my eye: What is going on with white women?
While the majority of black and latino men and women seem to be consistently voting for Democratic candidates. White men and women are overwhelmingly supporting conservative Republican male candidates. See for yourself with a few high profile race results as reported on Twitter by Mona Eltahawy.
Now, I don’t think it’s a story that people are voting Republican but what seems to be the story, is that women seem to be voting against their best interests.
Let’s take a look at this summary from Vogue:
In the Georgia governor’s race, an estimated 75 percent of white women—more even than white men!—voted for Republican Brian Kemp, who is passionately pro-life, over Stacey Abrams, a staunch protector of women’s reproductive rights, while 97 percent of black women supported her. In Texas, 60 percent of white women cast their ballots for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a supporter of alleged assaulters President Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, over Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is dedicated to improving women’s health care. (Ninety-four percent of black women backed O’Rourke.) The numbers were similar in the Florida governor’s race, where 51 percent of white women voted for Republican Ron DeSantis, who has voted against equal pay and the Violence Against Women Act, instead of Democrat Andrew Gillum, who wanted to protect no-cost birth control in the state.
So what’s going on? It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot (this talking point about white women isn’t new after all). Admittedly it’s hard for me to understand because I do live in one of those bubbles where practically all my friends, and especially my white women friends are voting democrat and can’t wait to get the current administration out of office. However, I am a white woman so I think that allows me to share a point of view.
Let’s first focus on the “woman” label of the white woman.
The same Vogue article continues on:
…white women voters are establishing themselves as maddeningly, confusingly . . . unsisterly.
“Unsisterly.” This is where I do feel a little defensiveness come up. Because as much as I am pro-choice, and a feminist, and feel very strongly that all of us should be treated equally…I do not believe that all women should be put in one box. “You’re a woman therefore you must vote for woman’s issues” is so limiting to me. Do I think it’s strange that woman don’t vote for issues that would benefit them? Absolutely, which is why I’m writing this post, but at the same time I think about how boring tv shows and movies will become if we reduce women down to this one topic (every romantic interest also becomes a feminist…can you feel my massive eye roll coming through your screen?). We are complex and intricate human beings with limitless stories to tell.
A few weeks ago, The Daily did a podcast on how Latinos are more than one-issue voters. While immigration is certainly important to many of them, it isn’t the only issue they consider. It’s a similar situation for white women. Though it seems like the majority of white women seem to ignore women’s issues all together and that’s going to bring me to the more controversial part of this conversation.
I believe a big reason why white women are so “unsisterly” is that they don’t even see the need for a sisterhood to begin with. I think they’re so enveloped in the patriarchy that they can’t even see it exists. They’re a Westworld host that doesn’t yet know they’re a robot and not a human.
And the reason I believe this is two-fold: (1) weddings and (2) the pressure of being “a good girl”.
Let’s talk weddings. We have reality tv to thank for adding major transparency into what women will settle for in a relationship just to get married and how obviously important it is to them to simply have an over the top wedding day and not even think about the marriage itself. I’ve seen more episodes of Say Yes To The Dress on TLC than I care to admit and in many of those episodes the women end up buying a dress they cannot afford. In the testimonial they admit they’ll need to pick up a second job or that they simply don’t know where the money is going to come from. Just for a dress they’re going to wear one time. That’s how important a wedding is to them.
In the world of social media, every engagement, wedding, pregnancy, and birth announcement gets more likes and loves than a women graduating from college, getting a promotion at work, or starting their own business.
Imagine a world where instead of women planning their wedding from the time they get their first barbie doll it was ingrained in us that we would have the party of a lifetime in our twenties or thirties to celebrate all the women who have helped us become who we are and those that we also want to help raise up.
Now let’s talk about the pressure of being a good girl. As women we are taught to speak a certain way, dress a certain way, and more. We are praised for being pretty and kind. As little girls we don’t know any better but over time I do believe women become part of the game. In a very simplistic sense there are those that continue to play it (it feels safe, it’s gotten them far, etc) and those that don’t (fuck the patriarchy) and the full spectrum in between and further out. And that’s where the denial of sisterhood comes from. It is each women for themselves, Hunger Games style. You know what you need to do to be successful and if you don’t chose to follow the rules then that’s your fault.
Even more simplistically comes this dumbfounded view: “My life is good because I am good and that person’s life seems bad so they must be bad.” So when we’re talking about rape there’s this belief that good girls simply don’t get raped and if you did get raped you must not have been following the rules.
Now women from other races get married and women from other races are also told to “be good” so why does it seem to effect white women more? That I don’t know. There certainly must be a role where white privilege comes into play. And I do think there is still the role of “the good girl” here but in a more general sense that people believe that if you are a good person you don’t even up in bad situations where you need the government to help you. If you were a good person you wouldn’t be born in a third world country and raped by government leader resulting in a pregnancy at 13 years old.
And for me writing the last sentence is very heavy for me. I personally can’t imagine reading a story similar to that or talking to someone in a similar situation without having empathy and compassion or thinking they must have deserved it.
It’s hard for me to imagine that if one candidate was running on a $100 tax break and another candidate was running to eliminate all minorities in the US that there is anyway in which a white women would think “Well I’m not a minority so that doesn’t effect me. I’ll take my $100.” But that’s exactly what many of us feel is the choice that white women are making it and that’s why many people are flabergasted.
Obviously I’m not an expert in any of this but I think it is good to start the dialogue. I’m going to give The Daily another shout out for an example of how to talk to someone that has differing view points that you do.
Finally, thank you for reading this. If you’re feeling defensive and ready to race down to the comments to share something about “not all white women”, then I’ll leave you with last quote from Brittany Packnett’s article in The Cut which certainly sums up what it means to be sisterly:
The most important step is this: Train yourself toward solidarity and not charity. You are no one’s savior. You are a mutual partner in the pursuit of freedom. Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal activist and artist, once said: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” I want to be free. I want you to be free. And you aren’t free until I am. Spend your privilege, and just when you think you’ve spent enough, spend some more.