By Bethany Cunningham
Bethany Cunnigham is a professor at a Pacific Northwest community college and a busy mother of two young children. You can find her running the Facebook page Take Our Daughters To Vote.
I started this election year disillusioned. Back in 2008, I wore my infant daughter on my back and put an “HOPE” button on her carrier as we put up our yard sign. Later that winter, I nursed her as we watched the inauguration, and I whispered to her downy head that she was witnessing history. Four years later, like many, I was frustrated with the lack of change. I blamed the current administration, the gridlocked congress, and the corporate interests controlling too much of public policy. I wasn’t really sure it would make a difference if I voted. I no longer live in a swing state. Would it really matter if I sat this one out?
My younger self would have found this stance unthinkable—I come from a family of voters. My grandmother was born the year women won the right to vote. For most of her adult life, she worked the polls on Election Day. A devout Catholic and gentle soul, she still identified with feminism. My mother was a stay-at-home mother and a staunch feminist who raised me to respect Susan B. Anthony right up there with the founding fathers. She took me with her to vote more than once, and she never lets me forget the anniversary of women’s suffrage. We vote. It’s what we do.
But I was angry and more than a little bit bitter. The apathy that has gripped the country had infected me too. Then came the summer and one headline after another as the War on Women heated up. I watched as gains we’ve worked years for were threatened. As choice got more compromised, as politicians tried to redefine rape, as women speaking up for birth control were called names, as women demanding equal pay were shunted to the sidelines of national conversations.
And then I realized—I can’t afford NOT to vote. It’s not just about me and how I feel about the present. It’s about my daughter and the future. It’s about the country I want her to live in—a country where women aren’t just in binders, they’re in boardrooms and medical schools and even oval offices. It’s about the Supreme Court I want for her, the judges I want deciding pay equity cases and harassment suits and rape trials all across this country.
And I finally got what my grandmother and mother were trying to tell me—we don’t vote for ourselves. We vote for our daughters. We celebrate women’s history because they marched for US. They held signs and hands and endured frozen faces, sore feet, and hateful words so that we can make it to the polls. We live right now in a world in which feminism has become a dirty word. But when we run from it, we’re also running from the struggles of our foremothers. We’re settling for less, not more.
So I’m voting for my daughter. I feel strongly enough about it that I started a facebook group: Take Our Daughters to Vote. It’s not about what party you vote for—it’s about showing girls that voting matters. Once upon a time, I got to wear my mother’s little “I voted” sticker. I want that experience for more girls. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that women’s rights matter and that it’s up to us and our actions to make sure they keep moving forward.
[NB: More people than just cis women are affected when political bodies pass legislation about reproductive health care, abortion, domestic violence, equal pay, etc.]
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