A month ago, I included “The Handmaid’s Tale” in a list of suggested television shows to help Millennials escape the stresses of the real world. Sure, it was a dramatic choice, but I jokingly pointed out that it’s arguably escapist because our society would never become that extreme. I also suggested “Call The Midwife” as a cathartic post-war tearjerker, not realizing that the overarching plotline of this season, which deals with the dangers of back alley abortions, would come to hold very relevant significance in the coming weeks.
Given the current news cycle, I feel I owe an apology to anyone who actually took me up on these suggestions. Clearly, I spoke too soon.
At its core, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a warning for what happens when extremists are allowed to rule with dogma rather than democracy. The result, at least in the case of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian universe, is that women are forced to bear pregnancies in order to help select affluent couples, rendered sterile by a recent nuclear war, have children.
We don’t live in a country governed by dogma (let’s assume I don’t have to say, “yet” yet). We aren’t separated in a caste system and forced to wear uniforms denoting our class, as the characters do in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But soon, if legislators in more than a dozen states have their way, women across the United States may be forced to bear unwanted pregnancies – included those caused by rapists. That’s kind of a major aspect of the TV show so yeah, escapist? Not so much.
I am not going to bring my personal opinion into this, so try and bear with me. My point in delineating all of this is the following: as the 2020 election approaches, the topic at the forefront of countrywide political debate is one centered on women. If the politicians representing us are going to be the ones telling us what we must do with our bodies, shouldn’t we make sure we have a say in that?
In Alabama, every single one of the legislators who voted for the state’s near-total abortion ban was a man. Most of them were Baby Boomers. Is that who Millennial women want to decide their futures?
Maybe it is. And if so, I guess go out and vote for those dudes. And if it isn’t, go out and vote for someone else. The point is, Millennial women: Go Out And VOTE. If your body is going to be the center of political debate in this country, you better make sure you’re participating.
In Congress, women account for 25% of the senate and 23% of the house. Only nine – 18% – of U.S. governors are women, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. One-third of U.S. Supreme Court Justices are women. Among members of state legislatures, just 28.8% are women. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but I’d be remiss not to point out that we’ve never had a female president or vice president.
Yet women make up just over half of the U.S. population. Most voters in America are women, too – which I guess either means that we continue to vote in men because we prefer their political platforms, or because not enough women run for Congress (which, as we saw with last year’s mid-terms, is changing).
While Millennials make up the largest living age cohort in America, they do not make up the largest voting cohort. We are well out-voted by the Baby Boomer generation, in particular. While our generation’s voter turnout increased from 27.6% to 42.1% between 2014 and the 2018 midterms, our 26.1 million votes accounted for just 21% of votes cast, according to Pew Research Center. Baby Boomers’ votes accounted for 36%, the highest percentage among all living generations.
In essence, here are the facts, fellow Millennial women: our elected representatives are mostly male and significantly older than us. Is that how we want it, especially at a time when our bodies are at the center of political debate?
I’d also ask as the election season is nigh: Are women happy with the status quo? I dare to surmise that the massive women’s marches held the past three years in a row would suggest otherwise.
No matter where you stand, you should vote. If you want agency over your future, that’s the simplest solution. And it would be an effective one. About 55% of the female electorate turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms, and fewer than half of the Millennial generation showed up.
Could you imagine how different the results might be if those percentages significantly increased? We could decide the next election. So, why don’t we?