In the wake of the notorious 1992 Anita Hill hearings, which saw a black woman shoulder frustrating sexism upon testifying about her experiences with sexual harassment, a wave of then-unprecedented numbers of American women ran for office and won. So far in 2018, there has been a 60-percent increase in the number of women planning to run for Congress compared to the 2016 race, according to Politico. And many of these female candidates have found success: In August, The New York Times reported that a record-high 200 female candidates had won their primaries for the House of Representatives. White men comprise a minority of the House Democratic nominees for the first time in history.
Just last week, a statistic by the Reflective Democracy Campaign revealed a 75-percent increase in women of color running for office since 2012. These numbers are a sharp challenge to the status quo; currently, white men hold 65 percent of all local, state and federal offices. White men make up just 32 percent of the U.S. population.
Now more than ever, voters must recognize the critical nature of electing more women, and specifically more women of color, particularly in light of recent divides between white women voters and women of color.
All Americans benefit when women, in general, hold more offices. Research by Michele Swers, a political scientist at Georgetown University, shows that women legislators in Congress have historically introduced and passed almost double the legislation of their male counterparts, focused on oft-neglected domestic issues like health care and education, and have been more likely to work across party lines.
Feminism is driven by solidarity among women and marginalized groups; the movement seeks to uplift all people who are oppressed by the white, cisgender, heterosexual patriarchy. With that said, here are some difficult truths: 53 percent of white women voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. Just 46 percent of white women believed the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her, compared to 83 and 66 percent of black and Latinas, respectively, according to Quinnipiac University polling. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was one of the deciding votes to confirm Kavanaugh to the high court, despite the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against him. The voting public must examine why so many white women act against their own interests to uphold the Trump administration’s agenda of misogyny.
The intersectional war on women that disparately attacks women of color, people of color, immigrants and LGBTQ people, is ultimately facilitated by powerful, wealthy, straight white men. There is no erasing their active, unrelenting attacks on women’s rights, and their creation and maintenance of a culture that erases and trivializes sexual violence and empowers accused men as victims. However, to stand up to this all-encompassing system of oppression requires the labor and solidarity of all women. For too long, throughout history and today, not enough white women have been willing to yield the privileges conferred upon them by whiteness to stand up for others.
Voting for Trump, and voting in line with Trump, ultimately empowers male abusers, forfeits women’s bodily autonomy and supports a system that strips women of credibility and hurts them regardless of their race. But for white women who are able to reap some of the benefits of the white, cis-hetero patriarchy, systems of oppression may seem worth maintaining. The wives of men like Trump, Kavanaugh and Vice President Mike Pence and other white women connected to powerful white men aren’t affected by patriarchal oppression in the same way women of color are, and additionally, they are unwilling to give up the social capital they gain from those relationships.
Let’s not forget how women of color are more likely to seek abortion care, or how black women are disproportionately affected by the United States’ crisis in maternal health care, and are 243 percent more likely than white women to die of pregnancy and birth-related causes. Let’s not forget how Native American women are more likely than all other women to experience sexual violence, or how the wage gap expands from $0.86 on the dollar for white women, to $0.63 and $0.54 for black and Latinx women, respectively.
Of course, women of color are not a monolith. We all have different perspectives, experiences and different policy preferences. It’s not our obligation to save the world, and bear the burden of decades of cruel, harmful policies from bigoted white men. But certainly, we deserve a seat at the table and determinism in the decisions being made about our bodies and our lives. Certainly, it’s fair to say the legislative decisions of women of color may be impacted by their lived experiences, which are often unique of white women and men.
This November, with more women of color candidates than ever, we have a chance to make real change, not just for some people, and not just for some women — but also for everyone.
Kylie Cheung is a junior majoring in political science. She is also the blogs editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “You Do Uterus,” runs every other Wednesday.