I am 28 years old, and I am a first-time voter.
I know, this is shocking news, especially for how political I am and how impassioned I am about women’s rights, racial issues, LGBTQ rights, you name it. I honestly am so embarrassed about it that I wasn’t planning on admitting it to anyone at all and passing off my voting today as no big deal. But here we are. Allow me to tell you how I got here.
I decided to have a discussion about politics with my Fearless Females at our meeting yesterday, and I was met with groans and eye rolls. “This is boring!” “It doesn’t apply to us! We can’t even vote!” “Politics are so negative!”
I was floored. A group of girls interested in women’s rights but not interested in politics?! How can it be? I mean, seriously, how is that even possible? So I did what any teacher would do in this situation. I re-planned (or un-planned, as it were), grabbed a marker, and asked them why they all had such an aversion to politics. As they spoke, I wrote their reasons on the board.
The reason that came up over and over again was that they didn’t want to start an argument. While part of me was shocked that this group of outspoken young women was afraid to start an argument about politics, I couldn’t say I was surprised at the sentiment. Few things get people upset like politics. There’s nothing like a political discussion at a family gathering to get someone to burst into tears or storm out the door. I, myself, have been privy to (read: victim of) more than a few political Facebook threads that have gotten out of hand. It’s definitely not pretty, and definitely not something I’d want to relive by choice, so why should they, especially when they’ve seen the adults in their lives engage in the same heated discussions?
The fact of the matter is that these girls want to make waves, but without moving the water. It’s the same reason why so many women writers write about pink topics – fashion, weddings, babies, etc. We want to stick to what we know, and stick to what’s safe.
Our discussion got me thinking about why I didn’t actually vote before now. I was definitely interested and informed enough to vote in 2008, but chose not to. I told myself it was because Illinois isn’t a swing state and is always a Democratic state and, therefore, my vote didn’t matter. I also could have voted in 2004, even though I wasn’t as interested or informed at that point, but I told myself I was away at college and didn’t really understand the absentee voting process.
The truth is that, both times, I didn’t want to risk getting too involved in the coverage leading up to the elections and starting some kind of irreparable argument. The scariest thing is that I didn’t even realize that is what was going on until yesterday. From such a young age, girls are conditioned to be sugar and spice and everything nice. We’re given baby dolls and kitchen sets and told that we need to be sweet or else we’ll never find a husband. Even when we’re outspoken 23-year-olds, we say something headstrong and are told, “That’s why you aren’t married.” We are conditioned to bite our tongues and smile sweetly whenever anyone says anything we disagree with. And forget trying to say anything someone else might disagree with.
Realizing I’ve always been afraid to make waves, and having become so willing to do so now, has made me realize just how important it is for me – and all women – to vote. We all have opinions; now we just need to share them and use them to make a difference in the world around us.
I may not have voted in years past, but it’s never too late to start. It’s not too late for you, either. Go vote!