We knew that racism and misogyny have always festered under the surface of American society. It doesn’t make the result of this election any less devastating.
The result — including the revelation that 53 percent of white women voted for a man accused of sexual assault by multiple women and bragged about sexual assault on tape — is a stinging confirmation of how much further we have to go. Moving forward, we can take time to mourn and reflect, but then we must work to elect women into office.
We don’t elect women to office for the sake of being women — we elect them because it plays a role in empowering young women. It bolsters their career ambitions and academic achievement and subverts the stereotypes that threaten their career success. Furthermore, minority legislators tend to better represent the concerns of their groups.
It’s important to have women in the room when discussing equal pay and people with uteruses in the room when making decisions on reproductive rights.
Last week saw the limited number of women who represent Americans in the U.S Congress diversify — a record 38 women of color were elected to the House. Two particular women elected to the Senate became notable firsts: Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina woman, and Kamala Harris is the first Indian American woman and second African American woman. But still, only 20 percent of the U.S Congress is made up of women. In Texas, around 80 percent of the seats in the Legislature are still controlled by men.
Laurie Felker Jones, the director of communications for Annie’s List, a statewide organization that works to support and elect progressive women into office, noted that in order to make progress we must remain politically active and move forward.
“Democracy works for those who show up,” Jones said. “So keep showing up. I’m a believer, and even for me the election last week was hard. I am included in the people who were really disappointed with the election results and had a hard time getting out of bed the next day, and I had to keep telling people to keep believing and moving forward. But I am going to continue to work. We have new champions.”
Jones went on to cite the positive results for progressive women in the elections across Texas, with Democratic women gaining five seats in the Texas House. On the local level, Zena Stephens in Jefferson County was elected as the first black female sheriff in Texas, and Anna Harris Bennett was elected as the tax assessor-collector for Harris County. As tax assessor, she is now responsible for voter registration in the most populous county in Texas.
“Here in Texas, where we have invested cycle after cycle, we’ve seen results,” Jones said, citing the work that organizations such as Annie’s List do to support candidates, including voter registration efforts and informing constituents about officials’ platforms and voting records. “If you want to see change in the causes you care deeply about, you need to get involved.”
If we want to elect women into office, especially those who champion progressive causes, we have to put in the work with campaigns and groups that help them become viable candidates. We have to keep showing up.
Nemawarkar is a Plan II sophomore from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @janhavin97.