Watching Egyptian citizens turn out in droves to vote in elections today was both inspiring and disheartening. While elections themselves may not mean much in Egypt, the progression they show as part of the Arab Spring movement signals a positive change in the mindset of the many in the Middle East. On the other hand, the passion these new voters bring to the polls — sobbing as they cast ballots, kissing boxes — reminds me of the less than thrilling vote I will make between what I consider the lesser of two evils this November.
According to this poll from Slate, many fellow citizens feel they’re in a similar position as myself: unsatisfied with what is happening in Washington, but still not ready to throw in the towel on the President when he is pitted against likely Republican candidate Romney. The latest approval and State of The Union numbers also confirm a cynical if not apathetic viewpoint; while nearly two thirds agree that the US is headed down the wrong track, half approve of the job Obama is doing. Are we so far gone, we have accepted a dismal fate? With Afghanistan, Social Security, national health care, gay rights, financial regulatory procedures, oil dependency, the entire education system, and of course that little budget problem we have on hand at stake one can dream that the 2012 hopefuls could transform voters from blasé to blown away.
Luckily for those of us who lack underarm hair and the talent of burping the ABCs, much ado has been made this year of women voters. Whether the First Lady’s biceps were behind the plot to heighten the focus on this demographic, or Rush Limbaugh’s slut lady friend, both parties have taken note on this women’s movement and have been holding babies and stroking egos of domestic goddesses in attempts to win the fairer sex over.
Suddenly, these two middle-aged men have taken, or rather one has taken and the other has deferred to wife and or media strategists, positions on contraception, pay scales, and family styles with enough empathy to make you wonder if he’s hiding a training bra under that sport coat. While this fuss over women’s issues is an inevitable part of the political circus currently occurring, the moment when the aforementioned politicians and media strategists realize that women are not in fact singular a demographic, may be the rejuvenating wake up call this election needs. Curious as to the reason neither party has won “the women’s vote?” Surprise! Women vote on more than classical women’s issues! Barack, Mitt, women come in all races and marital statuses. They are unemployed and they work white-collar jobs. They are religious and atheist. They are straight and gay. They fight in the Armed Services, knit for our soldiers, and help develop the technology that saves their lives. They are students, old folks, and are statistically more likely to be invested in our communities, environment, andeducation systems. They are cornerstones of families and work places alike, and their lives, like men’s, are being negatively affected by the current economic conditions in the US. Furthermore, treating them as a demographic to be won or lost, rather than as an influential member of this political system as a whole, does nothing more than to discourage women and foster a distrust in politics.
In the end, with a measly seventeen percent of Congressional seats belonging to women, contributing to the US ranking of forty-seventh on the UN’s Gender Equality Index – below China, United Arab Emirates, and Slovenia among others – the outcome of the women’s vote matters less than the very act of women showing up at the polls. With a strong turn out, no matter how prosaic the candidates, perhaps women will be able to show their appreciation for deeper issues than how well candidates can hold a baby, and in turn, finally gain a foothold in American politics.