As the United States’ presidential election approaches in November, Flyover Feminism is investigating the topic of voting from a feminist perspective. We’re interested in exploring who gets to vote, how voting discourse is shaped by the media, how voting differs by geographical location, and how voting impacts different groups of people.
Our series, Voices on Voting, will include (but is not limited) to posts on the following:
- voting rights
- women and voting
- minorities and voting
- accessibility of voting
- mainstream discourse on voting
- why I vote
- why I don’t vote
- why I’m undecided
Our first post in the series, “Two-Parties; Zero Meaningful Choice,” comes from Brandy in Arizona.
Brandy is currently a working professional in the technology industry. She also studied English Literature as an undergrad, with a special focus on Medieval Lit, and can’t get over how little has really changed in the last 800 years when it comes to social values and behaviors. She first encountered feminism in a Women’s Studies class at college and has been thankful ever since.
“I can’t think of a more terrible result for people who had to fight for their right to vote than to be given no meaningful choice.” — Melissa McEwan
This sentence (and the whole post where it resides) resonates with me. We (anyone who belongs to a group of people who has ever had to fight for the right to vote) are often told that not voting is shameful. Told, through various guilt-inducing and essentially victim blaming tactics, that we should feel grateful to even have the option of putting our voices out there. That voting is our best chance to affect change in our favor.
This, despite the fact that on many of the issues of most import to me, the practical difference between the two major parties is negligible (even if their rhetoric is different). Despite the fact that, in most of the US, including the state in which I live, thanks to the electoral college system, the state’s outcome in national elections is a foregone conclusion.
Every voting season I fight with myself. Should I vote? Does it mean anything? Is my voice (and millions of others who are in a similar position as me) really being heard? How can I be heard, when I’m essentially handed a script with two sentences on it, neither of which was written by me.
Every voting season I deal with the usual backlash of various people telling me that if I don’t vote then I’ve thrown away any right to “complain.” That it’s now “my” fault things don’t change (progressive dude mansplaining 101). That, in some severe cases, I am responsible for the shitty things our politicians do.
So, yeah, let’s take a look at that quote from Melissa again.
“No meaningful choice,” Melissa writes.
No meaningful choice.
And you know what? That really does capture the core of this conundrum for me.
And what a conundrum it is.
Many of us fought for the right to vote. We still fight to vote. The idea is nice. We want to speak and be heard. I want that, for certain. I want to vote.
However, we fight for this specific right predicated on the unfulfilled promises that when we show up to vote, we don’t be disenfranchised, and that when we vote, it’d be with our voices. That, when we speak through this medium, the country will hear us.
But really…. what voice do we truly have when the only things we can say (in this arena, at least) are words specifically handed to us on a cue card filled with other people’s agendas (mostly those who have not, in their country’s history, had to fight to be heard, no less).
Note: I am getting ready to use the word “they” to describe a rather large group of people. However, when I say “they” I am not talking about some undefined ominous “they” (alright, it’s a little ominous actually). What I mean by “they” are those people who make up the privileged amongst us. The politicians and mainstream supporters (including a large amount of voters) of the of two-party system, spoken of so often and eloquently on many feminist/womanist blogs. Especially our “allies” in the Democratic Party and amongst various supposed progressives and liberals of all flavors etc. “Allies” who “support” the rest of us when it is expedient to do so.
There are many time (most time, actually) when I feel certain that they court our speech simply to further their own agendas at the cost of our well-being. Speech which is regularly used as nothing more than background noise (as other writes have noted, get our vote, and then forget the promises made to us). Speech which adds volume to the voices of those whose speech is actually intended to be heard, while in effect drowning out the words that we are saying.
And yet we are made to feel like we must speak in this particular forum. Even when speaking means we act as a mouth piece for others. This veneer of our supposed access to a voice and meaningful discourse with the potential for action in our political system covers the truth that we are not heard. Instead our voices are subsumed and ultimately hijacked.
Just another tool in the oppressors’ impressive tool box.
This isn’t a call asking people to not vote. I am not trying to convince anyone of what they should or should not do with this hard-won and still unguaranteed right. Instead, I am just trying to get that frustration out there. To say what I can’t say when I’m interacting with that slip of oh-so-important paper, looking at no meaningful choices and trying to make an impossible decision.
So, will I vote? I don‘t know. I still haven’t decided, this time. Though, in the past I’ve generally given in. I make my mark next to the least horrible of the horrible and I feel like I’ve lost no matter what. Do I ever feel that in choosing to vote, I’ve been heard? I cannot say that I have.
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