Why we should not “elect ALL women”
In response to a recent opinion written by fellow CHIPS staffer Isabelle Pippert, and in light of the recent Decorah school board elections, I would like to present the case against electing “ALL” women. Though Pippert and I both identify as “raging radical leftists,” I am the kind that would absolutely not vote for women like Governor Sarah Palin or Senator Joni Ernst if literally any other viable (i.e. less politically right-wing) option was available. While I do agree with Pippert’s point regarding the necessity of representation, there is so much more nuance to this issue than simply electing women to elect women, seeking representation only for representation’s sake.
Pushing to elect all women regardless of whether their politics align with your values, and saying they should be elected above any man of any party, is incredibly reductive and participates in patriarchal discourses rather than dismantling them. As voters, we have a responsibility to elect the candidate with the most well-informed, compassionate, and progressive policies, regardless of their gender.
This issue hits close to home, as I am writing this opinion in the midst of school board elections in Decorah, including the race between incumbent School Board President Ronald Fadness and Teresa Gehling for the position of School Board President. The central voting topic in the election was the controversy between continued implementation of mask wearing and COVID-19 protections in schools versus not requiring masks or precautions. Fadness advocated for mask wearing and maintaining COVID-19 precautions during the height of the pandemic, where Gehling did not include pushing for COVID-19 precautions among her aims for school district governance. In fact, the primary reason Gehling was endorsed by Decorah’s unsettlingly named “Club 45” was because she does not wish to continue implementing COVID-19 protections for Decorah’s unvaccinated youth. If all candidates shared the view that COVID-19 is still a real and terrifying threat, I would likely prefer to cast my vote for a woman, but I cast my vote for Fadness. What is more important: electing a woman to local office, or preventing the spread of COVID-19 among hundreds of unvaccinated children, and as a result, among the larger Decorah community?
While I agree with Pippert’s point that representation is incredibly important, many of the reasons women are not a prominent demographic in politics is because of the systems put in place by our governing bodies; systems that are upheld by some women in power. To offer only a few examples, in her time in office, Joni Ernst has systematically voted to refuse hundreds of thousands of Mexican and Latinx immigrants entry to the United States, many of whom are women and mothers, not to mention the other items on her voting record. Governor Kim Reynolds continues to cripple the reach of Planned Parenthood in Iowa, a service that provides necessary healthcare to thousands of women in the state. When women in power are enacting policies that disenfranchise other less-privileged or BIPOC women, as well as other marginalized groups, I see absolutely no reason to support them.
It’s also worth pointing out that while women are very much underrepresented in politics, women of color only make up an even smaller percentage, with only 34.3% of women in congress being BIPOC. In 2021, a white, neurotypical, wealthy Republican woman like Kim Reynolds serving as governor is not a radical act of representation.
Obviously, the ability to have this conversation at all is a position of immense privilege, as there are many places in the world where non-male candidates are totally unheard of. This opinion also does not come from a place of wanting to tear down any other opinions, only to challenge this discourse and provide a different perspective on the issue: that women can be equally responsible for upholding patriarchal and oppressive systems.
We cannot say we are fighting for equality if we do not hold women equally accountable for their destructive actions and ideas. As informed voters, we must vote for whoever we believe will enact the best policies for our communities and our environment, no matter who they are or what gender they identify with.