by Billie Lorraine Lafty
This year’s presidential election has already stirred quite a bit of emotion throughout not only the United States but also the rest of the world. Leading presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both taken part in their fair share of controversy over the past year, causing our already divided nation to drift even further apart. Many are unsure of which candidate to choose, and others are declaring their plan to forego casting a vote due to their limited options. However, avoiding the election may be detrimental to the progress we have made as a society, especially where the gender gap is concerned.
According to a report from the Center for the American Women in Politics (CAWP), since 1980, more females than males have voted Democrat. In the 1980’s, more and more women began working, living on their own, and developing their own voice or political opinions that were not influenced by their husbands and fathers. The changes in the general attitudes and lifestyles of women strongly affected their voting decisions.
Taking this information into account, these numbers suggest that women have only truly had about 36 years of real political influence in our country’s 240 year history.
Although the right to cast a meaningful vote has not been available to women for very long, we seem to have forgotten our long and grueling struggle to get to where we are today. This distance from hardship has made women now more willing to give up a right fought so hard for. In fact, the struggles that we faced while fighting to obtain the right to vote are still experienced today in foreign countries all over the globe.
Countries such as North Korea are ruled by dictators who do not represent the interests of the common people. Speech is not a right in these countries and can instead become a death sentence. Citizens with ideas for change or feelings of victimization cannot speak out against their own government. In contrast, America was built on the foundation of free speech. However divided we may be as a nation; the possibility of change is always available to us simply because of our democratic voting structure.
While refraining from voting is the right of all United States citizens, there are so many reasons for women and all citizens, for that matter, to reconsider and make an effort to cast their vote. Nearly a century has passed since the 19th amendment was approved, but the struggle for the right to be heard should motivate women to continue this legacy of political participation. Furthermore, however perturbed we may be about the current state of our country, refusing to vote would mean denying ourselves a right many would die for. After all, regardless of the differences that seem to keep our nation divided, the freedom to voice our opinion and choose our leader shouldn’t be taken lightly.
As for any female citizens, consider the following words of Susan B. Anthony: “ I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.” Take a stand and protect yourself through your vote. Research important issues and take the time to understand each candidate’s stance before deciding if they are the right candidate to represent you as an individual. Refusing to cast a vote would mean relinquishing your chance to have a say in the government.
When November comes and the polls open, take a step back and ask yourself if you are doing everything possible to ensure that your voice is being heard. While the answer may be different for everyone, the response should be no different. It is your duty as a woman, as an American, and as a free human to use your gift of free speech to make our country and world a little better. Cast your vote this November.