Recently, I accepted a position as a committee chair for the honors newsletter at my university. We had our first meeting, and I found out that all of my writers are men. This did not intimidate me. In fact, it made me feel even more in charge than I’d already felt. I led the meeting and held the attention of my writers the entire time. It was empowering.
However, as the meeting began to end and the writers began to talk among one another, the conversation diverted towards a women’s writers class offered at my university. It wasn’t favorable, either. They asked why anyone would want to take the class, why there had to be a whole class focused on female writers as if every English class ever hasn’t focused mainly on male writers. Then, one of the writers said the one thing that made me write this article: “My problem is that women’s issues always have to be political.”
Yes, a college student actually said that. So, this article is for him, and all of the other people out there who wonder why women’s issues are political issues.
The thing is, women’s issues wouldn’t have to be political if politics didn’t play such a huge role in the issues that minorities face. And, if politics didn’t play such a huge role in these issues, they might not exist at all. In this day and age, though, everything is political, whether we like it or not. Politics decide who is voted into office, and the people voted into office decide what issues will be focused on, what legislation will be passed, what rulings will be made in court cases– and that legislation and those rulings all decide how the people of a country live their lives. If that legislation and those court rulings are in favor of marginalized groups, then the lives of those marginalized groups improve. However, if the legislation and court rulings are against those marginalized groups, then they stay marginalized. Their lives don’t improve. Either way, politics is the cause of their prosperity or their suffering.
Women are a particular target of these legislative decisions and court case rulings. They have been throughout history. In the U.S., women were excluded from the right to vote until 1920, and even then it was only white women who were granted the right to vote. They had to fight for their right to have a safe and legal abortion, purchase birth control, have equal access to job listings, get a credit card in their own name and file a complaint about pay discrimination. The list could go on, and women are still fighting for rights to do things that they should’ve had the right to do a long time ago. All of these rights were granted through some governmental body, whether it be the Supreme Court or Congress. These decisions were made because of politics, and because of the politics that swayed the voting in of the policymakers who made the decisions on the rights.
The reason that women have to fight to have these basic rights is that the people who are in power want to strip them from women in the first place. Women’s issues wouldn’t have to be political if the people in power, and more specifically the men in power, would stop trying to take these rights away in the first place. Those men in power are decided through our political systems, so women’s issues are political because of that.
Women have also been excluded from politics for a very long time. In the U.S., although there are a record number of women serving in the 116th Congress, women still only make up 23.7% of Congress. And, that’s the most in history. In other countries, it’s even worse. In Japan, women make up only 10.1% of the lower house of parliament. In Greece, women make up only 18.7% of the lower house of parliament. In most countries around the world, women make up less than 50% of the national parliament.
Because women are so excluded from politics, the issues women deal with have yet to be resolved. If the women in power were supported by their male counterparts in their efforts to solve the issues, then those issues wouldn’t be political issues.
The point is, women’s issues are political issues because politics has a great influence on the lives of women. If politics didn’t decide whether or not women would have certain rights, then the issues women face wouldn’t be political. But, until politics stop playing such a huge part in women’s rights and issues, women’s issues will continue to be political issues.
Photo: David Everly