Two weekends ago was all about Independence Day, and my Instagram feed was full of my girl friends posting their festive 4th of July pictures that rang with love for freedom and their country. Now, I’m left wondering where all this patriotism went on Primary Day, and where it will go come November on Election Day. To these girls, I challenge you to love your country enough to not just post on Independence Day, but to go out and go vote.
Both women and young people are important voting blocs in presidential elections. Not only do women represent a majority of the population, The Center for American Women and Politics reports that women have outvoted men in every election since 1964. Additionally, the Pew Research Center now has Millennials matching Baby Boomers, each age group having roughly 69 million people and comprising 31% of the eligible voting population. Now more than ever it is important for young women to realize our votes count, and we need to take a stand for our country and the issues that affect us.
While there are many political, economic, and social issues on the table this 2016 election season, a few stand out as the most pertinent to young women.
Until Obamacare was enacted in 2010, being a woman was a pre-existing condition. Women were paying up to 48% more for health insurance than men, for reasons like having a C-section, being a victim of domestic violence, or just by virtue of being able to get pregnant and have a child. The Affordable Care Act equalized healthcare for women, and now 47 million women have access to preventative women’s health services. Young women especially have benefitted from increased availability of birth control and suffered from decreased access to abortion, so protecting these rights is essential to ensuring young women are safe and able make their own choices for their lifepath. Obamacare was a Senate Bill that passed by a narrow margin in the House of Representatives, and while it would be difficult, candidates have advocated to repeal Obamacare, which would leave millions uninsured and wondering how their health and reproductive and contraceptive rights will be protected by the government.
Education, the Wage Gap, and Minimum Wage:
Today, more women graduate from college than men, and about 60% of U.S. bachelor’s degrees belong to women. This also means more women are paying for college, and studies have shown that women suffer more with student loan debt because of other economic problems facing women, such as the wage gap and unfair minimum wage.
The American Association of University Women found that within the first year of full time employment after college, women were earning 82% of what their male counterparts were earning. This is after controlling for hours, occupation, college major, employment sector, experience, and the other factors associated with pay–this is about gender discrimination, which is largely immeasurable and likely subconscious. Beyond the first year of employment, the Wall Street Journal found that women earn less than men in 439 of the 446 major U.S. job occupations, even after years in the field.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by the Pew Research Center, over 3/5 of minimum wage workers are women. Raising the minimum wage to $12 across America and $15 in big cities would allow full-time minimum wage workers a living wage, or a wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living. Over 30 cities including Boston and Washington D.C. have approved a $15 minimum wage, but over 3 million Americans in jobs at or under minimum wage simply can’t earn a living.
Both the wage gap and the insufficient minimum wage make it harder for women to pay off student loans and earn a living, which is why our next president needs to have debt free college and increasing minimum wage as a central part of their platform.
Violence Against Women:
Domestic violence disproportionately affects women. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1 in 3 women are the victim of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, and 1 in 5 women will be raped. Young women between 18 and 24 are the most commonly abused, and face the most counts of sexual assault on college campuses. Among problems the Brock Turner case presented, including bringing to light the racial differences in punishment and sentencing, it became clear that women’s issues such as sexual assault aren’t taken seriously enough. So many women are afflicted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape, and we need our government to take steps change the culture and society that allows it. We need our next president to take a stand on our behalf and work to curtail violence against women.
Other women’s issues that are also important to consider are the underrepresentation of women in politics, paid family leave, affordable childcare, LGBTQ rights, gun control, fair treatment of female prisoners, human and sex trafficking, and the lack of an Equal Rights Amendment, but I thought the causes I chose to focus on would resonate best with young women like myself.
Remember, our next president will choose what is on the national agenda, and if young women’s issues are going to be pushed aside or taken seriously. Our president decides the judges who are hired for the court of appeals and district courts, which decide a majority of civil rights cases in our nation. Our next president could nominate up to 4 Supreme Court Justices, who have the potential to take cases that will set new precedents for women’s issues, or overturn landmark victories that protect women’s rights. If you say you love America on Instagram, show America your patriotism by participating in the democratic process. It takes just as long to register to vote as it does to think of a clever Instagram caption. Young women, don’t forget to vote for your own interests, and to protect the freedoms afforded to you in this country.