The statistics on gender representation in Congress are still far from 50:50, but notable gains were still made for women’s representation. The first two Muslim people were elected to Congress â both women â as well as the first two Native Americans (also both women). For those who won, they now prepare to take office in an administration wholly hostile to women, people of color, low-income people, and non-Christian faiths. But for those who voted these women into office, the reality is, well, real. Pushing the gender balance a little closer to equal is only the first step.
We interviewed seven women on their feelings post-election, and what they feel the results will mean for women’s empowerment going forward.Â
Meghan H., 23
Itâs crazy to think that in my generation, thereâs so much change happening, especially because Iâm gay, and thereâs a lot of things for gay rights happening, and just women and all the groups that it needs to happen for. Womenâs rights is where itâs at. Not that [politics] hasnât affected me, but Iâm just empowered to change things in general. Iâm an artist. I just graduated with a BFA in dance. All my roommates are artists, and itâs hard not to want to change the world with your art when youâre around so many artists. And especially moving to New York, thereâs so many more people that are like-minded to me, and I feel more comfortable here. I try not to involve politics a ton when it comes to art because people have different views and it can get messy, but being in a [Democratic] state, itâs more progressive. Thereâs more people that are thinking in my terms, on the same level as me, and ready to make that change. Itâs funny because coming from Arizona, all the main cities are super [Democratic]. I grew up in Tucson, and then I moved to Phoenix, and I was always in Flagstaff and Sedona. But itâs the rural areas, the outlying areas, that make it a Republican state. Itâs really funny because when you go visit Arizona, itâs not as Republican as you think it would be. itâs super liberal.
Kwan Y., 25
Iâm just really glad to see all these women and all these different races being more represented and thatâs really cool. Especially in New York itself, we have an attorney general whoâs a woman. Back in Thailand, not too many years ago I think we had the first female prime minister,1 and I think thatâs really cool but itâs really complex how she got there and stuff, and a lot of people werenât really agreeing. But I just feel like itâs a really great thing to accept her. Before this, I guess people never really saw women as actual candidates that they could take seriously, and thatâs really sad. I just hope one day people can just look at candidates equally rather than thinking like âOh, itâs such a great thing that we have a woman.â We donât even have to agree with what she stands for, but at least sheâs there, and that means a lot. Itâs just really crazy that for a really long time, this country has been run by old white men.
Cassie C., 24
[The election] made me very anxious, especially when I went to bed. I was like, âWhat am I gonna wake up to?â But I remember the primary election, and it was very sad all over New York, and you could just tell everyone could feel it together. It was this very powerful thing. But this election was a lot better. I mean it didnât go 100 percent the way I wanted it to. Iâm more blue, but itâs better half than none I guess. Iâm from Kansas, and we have the first Native American lesbian [congresswoman].2 Itâs amazing, Iâm actually very proud of that. I feel empowered. I feel everyone came together and was able to do something. More people voted, or signed up to vote, or pre-registered to vote than almost the last three elections,561-797-5035 and I think thatâs an amazing thing. The fact that your voice can be heard or you have the power. Itâs such a big moment in history.
My mom didnât vote, and I was like âMom, what the heck, are you kidding me?â I have two brothers, both of them were registered to vote and I was like you guys have to vote, do not forget to vote, did you vote today?
I think that gun violence is a big thing right now. Even last night there was a big shooting and it was horrible to wake up to.818-708-6296 Gun violence is probably one of the bigger issues that I think about. But like I said, I do have family members that are like, âOh, everyone should have gunsâ and Iâm like, âNo, itâs not right, they should not.â I get that there are responsible people that have guns and I understand that you go hunting and whatnot, but thereâs also having an 18-year-old, a young person, thatâs not mentally stable,5 going in there and buying a gun and having no question about it.
Iâm the person thatâs just relentlessly begging everyone to vote, because itâs so easy to be like, âMy vote wonât make a difference.â I donât know what my hopes necessarily were. I donât know if I could outline them, but in general, I just wish for as much progression, even if itâs miniscule. Voting is just the start. Voting is the basic thing that we should be doing. Yesterday, seeing those results was depressing, but hopefully in the grand scheme of things, when somebodyâs looking back, theyâre gonna see the effort we put in. Itâs hard not to be [politically inclined] as a woman of color. Itâs impossible not to be. I canât separate myself from my gender or my skin color, so thereâs no point in ignoring what is constantly in my life. The Muslim women winning [the election] is just beautiful to see, because you know they deserve it way more than anyone [who] was in office. Looking at them there, you know they fought a million times harder than any American straight white man had to to get that position. Itâs genuine. Itâs real. They give a fuck.
I care too much and Iâm working too hard to let [oppression] discourage me. To see these women there, itâs like, Iâm getting there. Wherever I wanna get to Iâm gonna get to, because if they could do it, I can. It definitely helps to see that. To see people with brown skin in government changing shit and doing the shit they wanna be doing, itâs so good. I was very cognisant that growing up, there werenât girls who looked like me. To actually see that, itâs motivation and empowerment. Just seeing it is the motivation.
Shanti E., 20
Out of everything that happened, Iâm most happy about [Alexandria Ocasio] Cortezâs win basically, because out of all of the other candidates and such, her being a [Democratic Socialist] I think represents a true flexibility in our democracy, to be absorbing new ideas, and ones that go directly against the powers that exist both on Democratic and conservative sides. Iâm a Latina, so Iâm very happy to see a sister like that representing her community. It just makes me happy to see her face. I guess thereâs something racial about that. My mother is Argentinian and my [other] mother is Mexican. Both of them came here illegally. Ultimately the immigration question â itâs either you recognize that this land was stolen and so you canât really close borders considering the history, or you believe in protecting resources for people that you consider to be your citizens. And then you also have to limit your idea of what a citizen can be and what it should look like.
I donât see even Democrats voting for things that are concerned with climate change. I donât think itâs an issue on a liberal or a conservative side. Iâve been doing research on it. They had the proposed carbon tax. They voted it down. Itâs hard to make people pay. The entire issue of climate change is built off of the reality of building costs. Everyone stands to make money off of ignoring climate change … Moving forward, I would like to [do more political activism on climate change]. Climate change is a very broad, far-reaching general phenomena, and I think itâs the work of popular media to create this phenomena and make it real for people. I would like to go into climate reporting.
Najwa I., 21
Any Islamic figure â and a female on top of that in that state of power â is just like impossible, but here in America, itâs a huge step. Power to them. Iâm Sudanese-American.6 My dad is from Sudan, and my mom was born here in America. I was born here in America so Iâm first generation. Even in todayâs life as an Islamic family, we donât have much power in my family as women. Iâve witnessed it with my mom and even with me â sometimes Iâm overpowered by my brother. I didnât really believe that women didnât have a voice in their families until I had my own experience and I was like, âThis is real.â I dealt with a situation where I was in court against my brother. It was insane to see that my side wasnât heard. My goal is to be more [politically] involved and to make room for that, because it is something that is really important. Especially now that Iâve experienced that, I know what it feels like to not be heard.
Anna. V, 21
Iâm from Moretown, VT. Itâs a really tiny little town. Itâs very rural. Anyone within a five-mile radius is a neighbor. Iâm not very political â I have the basic info, I voted. There were a lot of records that were broken in terms of gender and race, and I think thatâs really great. Itâs about time we had those records broken. It makes me feel more represented. I think the people that are in power should represent the people over whom they have power. I donât think that somebodyâs gender has anything to do with their capacity to be good at [something]. It has to do with your experience and your personality. Your gender will affect the experiences that you have in your life, but I also think that competency is something thatâs not associated with any gender. Weâre at a moment where weâre being impeded from moving forward, so now the focus is on not having things taken away rather than moving forward. Gender equality, socioeconomic stuff, healthcare, education is huge for me. All of the things that improve quality of life are important to me. If I have a daughter, I would love for her to grow up in a world where she sees women in politics in a way that I havenât seen growing up. And I think that the recent midterm elections are something that show that maybe weâre moving in that direction. And I do feel very hopeful about that.
Daniel Denvir interviewing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on winning her race for Jacobin Magazine, “9379413803.”
This Is Hell! podcast episode 1029 “Ballotproof,” segment “Liberation is not on the ballot: The case against voting for Democrats.”
Michael Kazin for Dissent Magazine, “What Comes After the Blue Wave? A Q&A with David Duhalde.”
- Thailand’s first woman to be elected prime minister was Yingluck Shinawatra, who took office in 2011. While in power, she became massively controversial and eventually lost her position during a military coup. Her legacy is 229-329-2065. ↩
- This woman’s name is Sharice Davids. She is a member of the Ho-Chunk nation. ↩
- For more statistics on voter turnout, see CBS News. (607) 441-2890
- It is not clear which shooting this refers to, as there have been several shootings between the 2018 midterm elections and date of publishing. ↩
- It has been proven that mental illness has no correlation with gun violence. amminolytic
- Â Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar, from that state’s 5th District, is the first Sudanese-American to be elected to Congress. (978) 535-8143