Up until this article, I had never even heard of Kristen Gillibrand. This may have to do with the fact that she is a senator from New York. But when I heard about her campaign (Off the Sidelines) to get more women involved in politics, it really piqued my interest.
Because I agree – there should be more women in politics. While researching this I learned that the number of women in Congress dropped (ever so slightly) in 2010. And there are less women in state governments than there were 10 years ago. And Ms. Gillibrand does make a good point – there are laws being made about women by a Congress that is largely male.
But I have a problem with Gillibrand’s campaign. Why? Because it seems like she only wants to get women involved in Democratic politics – not Republican or any independent politics. And I would be fine with that. If she wants to support Democratic women in politics, that’s her prerogative. What bothers me is that she’s not presenting this like it’s for Democrat women, but for all women. I’ll take the about page for example. (They’ve since rewritten the about page (as of 7/4/14) and redesigned the website – you can find the new one here but this text below is from the old one).
Kirsten knows that women who make an impact on our country all start by simply believing they can.
Getting off the sidelines is a state of mind. More women need to embrace the fact that their voice matters and that they can make a difference, with their vote, with their advocacy, with their candidacy.
More women must get off the sidelines and make a difference in their community. Whether it’s in the classroom, the boardroom, Congress or at home, it’s crucial that more women adopt this philosophy to affect change in ways both big and small. Because if they don’t, decisions will be made without them that they won’t like the outcome of.
Women have the power to shape the future, it’s just a matter of getting off the sidelines and getting involved.
That’s why Kirsten has launched OffTheSidelines, to make more women aware of the need to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives every day. Kirsten wants to let women know that their voice matters, to give them the resources to start to get more involved and tell the inspiring stories of women who already are.
That doesn’t sound partisan right? There’s not one mention of Democrats in that statement. In fact, it’s a lot of ideals I agree with. But when you look around at her website, to me, it becomes pretty clear that this is for Democrat women. On the website under get involved, it lists several things. If you click on the link “How You Can Get Off the Sidelines” it has several more links and suggestions. Some are innocent enough and not attached to anything (vote for example) but under categories such as Volunteer for a Campaign it only lists Emily’s List (a group for electing pro-choice Democrats who are women). Under Run for Office and Win! it has three non-partisan resource and then two that are strictly Democratic: The Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy (whose mission is to train pro-choice Democratic women) and Emerge America (for Democratic women). You could say to me, but Melissa, she has the non-partisan resources, to which I would say, she also listed to very partisan resources from one side without listing ANY from the other. Under Give or Raise money it has one link, to “Find candidates that share your value on ActBlue.” Upon going to ActBlue, you see their tagline says, “Want Blue states?” The majority of the resources she provides for women to get off the sidelines are aimed towards partisan, Democratic links. The women that I have found her getting behind in this Off the Sidelines effort are Kathy Hochul (D), Sarah Anker (D), and Terri Sewell (D). This campaign is largely supported by Democrats like Debbie Wasserman. She’s promoted her campaign on Emily’s List and they’ve said about her “And she shares the mission of Emily’s List — getting more Democratic women into office.” She’s been promoted (and guest posted for) blogs like Momocrats (“Raising the Next Generation of Blue).
Do you want further proof that her “Off the Sidelines” campaign is meant to encourage more Democratic women in politics than overall women in politics? She’s gotten involved in my home state of Wisconsin and is supporting five Democratic women who are running against the incumbents in the recall election. On the surface, this might look like she is just supporting women candidates. Except when you look at the fact that two of the Republican candidates who are already in office are women. The call she puts out clearly states that she wants only these women to be elected, regardless of the fact that two of the positions are already filled by women (News article is now missing as of 7/4/2014).
Sandy Pasch, a member of the Wisconsin state Assembly since 2008, is running against Alberta Darling in WI-SD-08.
Shelly Moore, a former high school teacher who was elected to the National Education Association (NEA) Board of Directors in 2005, is running against Sheila Harsdorf in WI-SD-10.
If it was really about getting all women involved in politics, wouldn’t these Republican women (Alberta Darling and Shelia Harsdorf) be good enough? But yet she is throwing her support (and invoking the name of Off the Sidelines) in with the Democratic candidates, further cementing for me the fact that this is about Democratic women being more involved and not all women being more involved.
And that’s not the only issue with it. If you go to her website, you will see a button on your homepage asking you to contribute to her re-election campaign. There is another link to contribute to her re-election campaign under the Get Involved Page. When you click on the contribute button, you’re brought to another page where it says your donations will go to her re-election campaign. Not a single link dedicated to giving money to get more women in office, but three links to keeping one woman in office. She’s even on record saying, “This is very much part of my election campaign.” And I’m not the only one who has noticed this. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has written about it.
And this is not good for getting women involved in politics as a whole. If we really want women involved in politics, it needs to come from all parties.Because women are 50 percent of the population and if we want true representation of women in government, it will come from them being in both parties – not just in one party. If we only promote to women that they can belong to and be a part of this one party is that really empowering women? I don’t think it is. If we really want more women involved in government, we need to encourage them across the board, not just in one party or in one area of government.
So in light of this, I am going to make a pledge – for women who want to get involved in politics and for men who want to support women involved in politics. If you comment on the pledges, I will add your name to the list of people who have publicly said they support more women in government – in all the parties.
To see and sign the pledge for women, click here.
To see and sign the pledge for men, click here.
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