Today is the 94th Anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment which gave white women in the United States the right to vote. Just in case you forgot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like much is being done today to celebrate or recognize this date—so many seem to take this right for granted.
My earliest memory of learning about the 19th Amendment occurred when I was 11 years old. Our social studies teacher decided to do a “mock” election at school that day to see who we would vote for if we could: Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, or Ross Perot. I did not vote. I cannot remember exactly why—I was not taking a stand against voting. A few people in my class decided not to vote. I can remember watching the debates with my dad who was at the time a supporter of Bush (at least according to my memory…). Maybe I didn’t want to publicly vote against my father (the votes were by show of hands). I certainly remember thinking Ross Perot was kind of a joke. But I don’t really remember why I decided not to vote. It just didn’t seem that important.
When I got home from school that day I told my mom about what had happened and she was appalled. I think my assessment that it didn’t matter because it was just a school activity anyway might have upset her most of all.
That was the first time I remember learning about women’s struggle for the right to vote. Maybe I knew before that day that there was a time when women couldn’t vote, but it didn’t mean much to me. But that afternoon, my mom explained to me how much it meant that women had won the right to vote and how important it is. She told me that I should ALWAYS exercise that right—even in a silly classroom activity.
I have thought about that day a number of times since then—mostly during times when I wondered if my vote mattered. Times when I felt pessimistic about our electoral system. Times when I questioned whether my voice had any chance of being heard. Those are the times when I need to hear that voice in my head, when I need to remember how crucial the right to vote really is.
So many things are going on within the USA today that remind me why my vote is needed. Voter ID laws have popped up around the country, making it more challenging for the elderly, minority and low-income individuals to vote. Anti-choice laws are making their way through state legislatures, slowly but surely whittling away women’s rights to control their own reproductive health. The gender wage gap continues with many estimates indicating that women make 77 cents on the dollar of what men make. Attempts to address this disparity (like passing the Paycheck Fairness Act) have been unsuccessful.
The 19th Amendment was an important marker on the road to women’s equality in this country, but we have much further to travel. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and to question whether any one person's vote can make a difference. But it matters who we elect to make, amend, and enforce our laws. Let's celebrate today the battle that was waged to win the right to vote, and honor that battle in our continued work to protect, cherish, and exercise that right.
-Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.
Mo’Ne Davis is challenging many people’s ideas about what it means to “throw like a girl.” The 13-year-old pitcher for her little league baseball team has a 70-mile-per-hour fastball.
You read that right.
Mo’Ne Davis and her team will be playing in the Little League World Series that starts on Thursday. While many are celebrating her amazing sports prowess, she has certainly faced some critics. One person commented on the ESPN video of her performance that she should be proud of her work but
“she took the spot of another male player, and while she was obviously better than any other male that would have replaced her, no male would ever be allowed to join a girls team. Politically correctness has gone too far. Men and women are different and that's all there is to it.”
While a number of people disagreed with the post, these sentiments capture the views that are unfortunately held by many in our society and which can and often do lead to the devaluing of girls and women.
The phrase “like a girl” has long been used by boys to insult each other. During my time working at a therapeutic boarding school for adolescent boys I often heard boys saying some version of this to each other during games of capture the flag or ultimate Frisbee (e.g. “you run like a girl!” or “you throw like a girl!”). You can be sure it was never intended in a positive way. As one of the few “girls” (I was an adult woman at the time) around, I asked the boys if they ever thought about how it might make me feel that they were insulting each other in that way. They were genuinely shocked that I called them out on it and tried to explain to me that it had nothing to do with me. I explained to them that it sure did.
Tony Porter, the co-founder of A Call to Men: The National Association of Men and Women Committed to Ending Violence Against Women recently said in a Ted Talk: "If it would destroy [a 12-year-old boy] to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?"
The lessons that girls learn from this practice are not much better.
Always recently unveiled their “Like a girl” campaign, in which they asked older girls and adult women to do things “like a girl” including running, throwing, hitting, etc. Most of them performed in ways that were overly clumsy, goofy, or intentionally incompetent. One girl was asked directly “Is ‘like a girl’ a good thing?” In her response she said, “It sounds like a bad thing. It sounds like you are trying to humiliate someone.” Younger girls were asked to do things like a girl and they are strong, fast, and try their hardest. It is evident that girls are given messages throughout puberty that doing things like a girl is a problem. It is something they learn—not something they are born with.
There have been some important critiques to the Always campaign and others like it, calling into question whether advertising that is trying to capitalize on girl power is effective and warning of possible dangers of co-opting messages of empowerment in order to market something.
But I have to say, if you keep watching that video you just might not care. Watching young women be challenged about their internalization of the devaluing of doing something “like a girl” and seeing them embrace their own strengths is pretty amazing. It made me think about the ways in which I have internalized that same message, despite all the work I do around gender equity. That video makes me cry every time a watch it.
Just like a girl.
-Britney Brinkman, Ph.D.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.