The Women’s Candidate?

I’m not a fan of politics. In fact, I cringe at campaign ads, rallies, debates, bumper stickers, and just about everything else dedicated to helping people grab and maintain political power. I have a couple of friends who watch the details of elections the way baseball fans watch statistics, the way serious investors watch the stock market, the way sailors watch the weather. I can respect but truly don’t understand the enthusiasm some people feel for this process.

I do care who our leaders our; I just don’t care to spend months or years listening to people tell me what to believe, try to manipulate me into thinking as they want me to, or call each other names for my benefit. So I pretty much ignore as much of it as I can until shortly before it’s time to vote, when I spend a little time doing my own research and make up my mind.

It’s been hard to ignore recent rhetoric, though, about “the women’s vote.” Predictably, again this year women are at the center of another heated battle for our minds and our loyalty. Apparently all sides believe if they can win us over, they’ll have an enormous voting “bloc” at their disposal. So they give us extra attention and pats on the head, talk about issues they believe are most important to us, and play to our fears. This approach is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally disrespectful toward women, and I’m tired of it.

The fact that this “battle for women” exists suggests women are important, powerful voters. But by contrast, this approach suggests we are weak and stupid enough to follow people who claim to speak for us, just because they use the words they think we want to hear. It assumes we are a group of powerless individuals who require solidarity to make our voices heard. It assumes we all think the same way, care about the same things, and experience the same response to emotional triggers designed to pull our puppet strings.

Ironically, female politicians of all stripes are regularly torn apart by women themselves, who don’t agree with their particular brand of femininity or their vision for the future. Maybe that should tell us something: we aren’t all the same. We shouldn’t be treated as if we are.

I’m tired of hearing people speak for women, making claims about who we are and what we want. I hear constant references to “women voters” as if we were a voting bloc or a powerless group who needs special representation. We’re not powerless; we’re not exceptions to the norm; we’re not even a minority group. We’re slightly more than half the population, and the only thing we all have in common is a small piece of our genetic code. We don’t all think alike and care about the same things. And as for power, in many ways—including economically—Western women are the most powerful people on the planet. And we’re still on the upswing.

Would anyone ever be so ridiculous as to think of men in the same way? I’ve never heard anyone speak of men as if they are expected to vote alike. It’s a given that men in general are powerful enough that their votes count, and they disagree with one another in their political views. So if a handful of powerful woman can speak on behalf of all women, why do we need so many powerful men? Who are they speaking for?

Believe me: I’m not bashing men. In fact, the worst offenders here are women who claim to speak for all of us, and women who let them. Why do so many of us want every other woman to think, act, behave, live, speak, and believe as we do? Why do we feel the need to exercise this kind of control? Do we believe it legitimizes us? Is it a symptom of loneliness or insecurity? Is at that we ourselves still believe women are second-class citizens?

Ironically, I suspect it’s our power itself that motivates people try to force us to vote as a bloc—if they can corral our power, they can use it as their own. So they discourage us from recognizing our individual strength. I, for one, am not buying in. Last time I checked, voting is an individual act. When everyone gets one vote, the action is a great equalizer. When each of us steps into that booth, we are accountable to ourselves. I, for one, will be voting my conscience.

© 2012 Amy Simpson.