'Don’t agonize. Organize.'
- Florynce Kennedy
Right now, many people believe that they will not see a woman elected president of this country in their lifetimes. The estimable Marie Cocco sums the situation up once again. One of my favorite blog writers, Ani, gives us her take.
One can hardly blame people for feeling this way. But, I think it is too early to conclude that we will not see a woman elected president in the next 24 years. So, if you think you have another quarter century in you, not only might you see a woman elected president, you can help make it happen. It won't happen because it will be easy to accomplish. And it It won't happen because of hope. It will happen because of hard work in the face of long odds.
It will happen because we challenge ourselves to make it happen' to make it a national priority. We must recognize that electing a woman to the Presidency of the United States of America is a way of affirming the 51 per cent of the American population consisting of women, a way of affirming that Americans can understand human rights well enough to appreciate that women's rights are human rights, a way of affirming the great American heritage in promoting the rights of all persons based on ever more inclusive ideas of who counts as a rights-bearing person.
Before you stop reading because you decide this is just going to be a bit of cockeyed optimism or mere exhortation, I will name two concrete ways Americans can challenge themselves to make a woman President within the next 25 years.
I. First, learn about The White House Project. Don't be put off by the bit on the home page congratulating Obama-Biden. There will be some ideas and aspects of the site you will like more than others, but spend some time at The White House Project, and you will see that this group understands that to put a woman in the White House we, as a nation, are going to have to face down the pervasive misogyny and sexism rampant in the culture and never more in evidence than right now. (In May, Marie Cocco wrote about the phenomenon; now with the talk of Senator Clinton becoming Secretary of State, the public face of misogyny has surged to the forefront again.) Some great pages from the website are here (this page shows that The White House Project understands exactly what we are up against), as does this one. Want to think about leading a political life? Look here. After you investigate, sign up to participate in the group - costs nothing but keeps you involved. Then, use the group's form to get some friends to sign up.
II. Second, set up your own support/action group, dedicated to challenging yourself and other people to put a woman in the Oval Office by 2034. I think of such a group as a "Send a Woman to the White House" [SWWH] club or partnership. It might start with you and just one other person. But as with exercise, it is easier to stay motivated toward a goal if you do so with some friends and companions. Here are some things SWWH clubs can do:
- meet once a week for at least an hour; use the hour to focus on political actions you are taking or want to take; then use the next hour to see how progress is going.
- create an investment fund - decide with other members what you can raise per month, and how you can raise it, and pick an organization that is dedicated to women's rights and particularly their representation as President of the United States of America.
- think of fun and social ways to educate yourself (book group on women's history or building presidential campaigns); walk-a-thons to raise money to donate to women's rights/interest groups.
- let other people know you have set up an SWWH group - and stay in communication with other groups.
- take small but direct actions: if you see misogynistic or sexist advertising, boycott the product or service and write the company in question; if your local bookstore or library does not have an extensive collection of nonfiction about women in politics or women's history, speak to the manager and ask for a better selection; when somebody uses misogynistic or sexist language, tell him or her that you object.
- invite a woman you would like to know better or whose work you would to know more about to come meet with your SWWH; she does not have to be famous and the event does not have to be fancy; it can be a coffee for three or an open house for 30.
Yesterday was the anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. This sorry date did not cause me to dwell on the horror and sadness of life cut too short. Instead, it put me in mind of one of the most admirable things President Kennedy did for this country. He challenged Americans to meet a seemingly impossible challenge: they did. In 1961, President Kennedy addressed the United States Congress urging long-term and continuous funding and commitment to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. President Kennedy did not live to see that goal met in 1969, but the goal would not have been met if he had not issued the Congress and, in another famous address well worth reading and hearing, the American people to invest resources and energy in hitting the mark. So we know that we as a country can attain goals that, when first presented, seem outrageously unreachable.
We may not have a President who will challenge us to put a woman in the Oval Office by 2034, but as American citizens we can issue the challenge to ourselves and to one another. If enough of us start now, we Americans can put a woman in the Oval Office by 2034, just as 40 years ago Americans put a man on the moon.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
-John F. Kennedy, Rice University, 1963
My own ambition and commitment: to start an SWWH group and to help anybody else who would like to start one. You can reach me through this blog for ideas about books to read, groups that might be worth supporting, specific projects you might want to try.