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What does Women Empowerment Have To Do With Voting In 2020?

14-yr. old striker, Fola La Follette, and Rose Livingston. Glass negative from the George Grantham Bain Collection, 1913. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division. Photograph shows suffrage and labor activist Flora Dodge "Fola" La Follette (1882-1970), social reformer and missionary Rose Livingston, and a young striker during a garment strike in New York City in 1913.

Last night’s presidential debate felt like a street fight. It seemed like watching 4th graders in “a yes, you did,” “no I didn’t argument” – and yet this was not the presidential debate you’d want your fourth grader to witness.

It was definitely not the kind of display you would want to see from men running for the highest office to lead the greatest nation in the world.

While the yelling, interruptions, blaming, and deflecting may have made our decision to vote less exciting, last night’s debate has made it clearer than ever before that 2020 is not an election any of us can afford to sit out.

It is by far the most consequential election of our time. 

As well as being an election year, 2020 also marks the centennial of American women winning the right to vote – that is, white American women. It took more years of activism to gain suffrage for Black, Indigenous, and Asian women. The fight for full voting rights for all continues today, as formerly incarcerated citizens don’t currently have the right to vote.

Our foremothers who fought for our right to be treated like other humans may not be here, but they have done their job and passed the legacy onto us.

The rights they fought for are our responsibility to uphold. As keepers and leavers of legacy, you and I must think about what we are going to leave our daughters. 

I for one do not want to tell my grand-daughters that I dredged up a number of excuses instead of showing up to vote to be a part of history in the making. I don’t want to say that I was avoiding dirty politics, I was too busy, or that I didn’t feel my vote mattered. 

I want to be able to tell the next generation of women that I was there, I was active, I was trying. I was not sleepwalking while the country was going through one of our greatest political crises.

I love how Meghan, The Duchess Of Sussex explained why she votes, “I know what it’s like to have a voice, and also what it’s like to feel voiceless. I also know that so many men and women have put their lives on the line for us to heard. And that opportunity, that fundamental right, is in our ability to exercise our right to vote and to make all of our voices heard. One of my favorite quotes, and one that my husband and I referred to ofen, is from Kate Sheppard, a leader in the suffragist movement in New Zealand, who said, ‘Do not think your single vote does not matter much. The rain that refreshes the parched ground is made up of single drops.’ That’s why I vote.”

Throughout history, people have tried to keep the voices of women down. They have been scared for good reason – we are a force to be reckoned with – we know that when we want to, we can do things no one else can. 

Women voters are a concern for presidential candidates because we care about our schools, our streets, our neighborhood, our rights, and the rights of minorities – because we know what it feels like to be treated unfairly.

The presidential candidates know we matter – our votes matter and that makes a difference.

Our foremothers knew this, the candidates know this, the question really is: do we know our votes matter? Do we behave like our vote makes a difference

What is women empowerment to you?

To me it is the ability to affect change in the most consequential election of our times.

It is not enlightened or empowered to give into excuses 

Even if you have never voted before – have not wanted to get involved in dirty politics – that don’t know who to choose amongst this circus – still exercise your right to vote. 

You don’t have to be involved in politics to cast a vote – that’s just your right as a citizen who contributes to this society everyday. 

The reality is you are affected by the politics. Know that if you sit out the election decisions will be made for you and they will affect you whether you are participating or not.

If you think your vote won’t matter because of a guaranteed electoral college victory in your state – still go out and vote. 

Voting isn’t just about choosing who is sitting in the White House. It also decides who will lead our schools, police departments, and our courts. 

As we saw this year, it can determine the death toll, the way the violence is dealt with, the morale, and the culture of this country. As leaders in the world, what happens in the United States affects the world.

In this election, we don’t have a choice to be aloof, or busy, or scared, or unaware.

We have a responsibility to ourselves, our younger generation, and the world – a responsibility to show up and vote.

Being an American woman in 2020 means you cannot afford to sit this election out.

Let’s use our power and our right to choose our country’s next chapter – will it be another horror story, or the grace and pride we strive towards?

As women, one thing we are great at is getting inspired and inspiring others.

As women, let’s all get together across race, geography and ability – lovingly support and inspire each other and use this election as an opportunity to come together and make history as women voting in majority. 

Sanya Bari (@sanya.bari)

Therapist, Coach, Relationship Expert, & Lifestyle Blogger

SHE Magazine USA

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