Last week, a progressive Democrat almost won a special election for a seat in Congress in a historically conservative part of the ultra-red state of Georgia.
For many across the country, thirty-year-old documentary filmmaker and former Congressional aide, Democrat Jon Ossoff, brought hope for a progressive future. He symbolized “the Resistance” moving in on Trump to dismantle a Republican regime.
For some feminists, though, the race presented an issue. Women are extremely underrepresented in politics: we make up only 20 percent of the Senate, 19.3 percent of the House, and 19 percent of mayoral positions. Only four women currently serve as a governor, and just one is a woman of color.
For these reasons, everything within me wanted to send a female to Congress to represent my home state and be a voice for women. It’s unfortunate and disappointing, though, that I couldn’t support Karen Handel for even a second. She may be a woman, but her male opponent would have truly fought for women on a level Handel not only can’t reach but doesn’t even want to.
Feminism, we have to remember, is not about supporting every single female with an idea. It’s about elevating the status of women in society to that of men. Some women, such as Handel, actively work against that goal and therefore forfeit the support of anyone who wants to see our country become truly “free.”
Handel won’t put a crack in the glass ceiling; she can’t even see it from her place within the crowd of misogynistic men. To say anything else is an insult to anyone fighting for equality.
Ossoff — and a hopeful 48.1% of Georgia’s 6th district — believes in women’s right to autonomy over their bodies, a health care plan that would insure every American, a living wage, and equal pay for equal work. They support improving the public education system and cutting spending that Ossoff repeatedly stated was out of control in both parties. Ossoff voters chose a man who advocated for tax reforms benefitting more than the richest among us and the largest corporations and generally stands in stark contrast to the President who so narrowly won over the region.
What does Karen Handel support?
- repealing the Affordable Care Act (which she calls the “single biggest intrusion into the lives of Americans in decades” in favor of a health care bill that may deprive millions of care)
- lowering taxes on the rich and big businesses
- constructing a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico
- continuing racist voter ID laws that obstruct POC from voting
- privatizing the school system
- defunding Planned Parenthood
- denying women’s right to choose when it comes to abortion
How any woman could support these policies is beyond incomprehensible. The GOP’s House health bill — the edition the public knew about during the Congressional race — would essentially have omitted women’s health care, feeding into this male-centric society where education about our bodies already faces extreme limitations and what we do, wear, and say faces constant policing. As Refinery29 put it,
House Republicans voted to take health insurance away from 24 million Americans and jeopardize coverage for millions more with pre-existing conditions. While Obamacare was certainly an imperfect bill, what Trump and the Republicans are championing is downright cruel and disastrous — moving America backwards instead of forward. And, even more perversely, the bill written and passed mostly by wealthy white men will have its most harmful impacts on poor women of color.
The GOP health care bill supported neither health nor care and would also allow states to choose not to cover things such as hospitalization and maternity or mental health services. It would even have labeled rape, postpartum depression, C-sections, and suffering domestic violence “pre-existing conditions” rendering someone ineligible for some insurance. More than 80 percent of victims of domestic violence are women, 1 out of every 6 American women have survived an attempted or completed rape, and postpartum depression affects up to 1 in 7 women.
And Handel — a woman — supported the bill.
Luckily, the Senate health care bill publicized Thursday would not penalize those with preexisting conditions, however, it is telling that Handel supported the original House bill. The Senate one isn’t much better for women, and she will likely support this revised version as well.
Handel also worked as the Senior VP for Policy at the Susan G. Komen Foundation and used her position to fight for the organization to cut $70,000 worth of grants from Planned Parenthood. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood is another attack on women, especially poor women and women of color. The clinic is sometimes the only option for low-income women seeking contraception and provides lifesaving care such STD tests, cancer screenings, and information and counseling for mental and reproductive health. As most of us know, abortions only comprise 3% of the clinics’ services.
Credit: Planned Parenthood
To top it all off, Handel explicitly said, “I do not support a livable wage,” and said that this distinction is what makes her “a conservative.” And people still voted for her.Don’t be too surprised: her district is one of the most affluent and educated in Georgia. A livable wage isn’t something many of them have to worry about.When Handel said that she doesn’t support raising the minimum wage, she meant that she doesn’t support helping the majority of low-income workers sustain themselves and their families. Nobody can claim her as a champion for women’s rights when 19 million of the 23.5 million low-income workers in America are women, and she doesn’t want to raise their salaries to a level that will support them.
Women are not winning here. One woman won, but that woman has internalized misogyny and will do nothing to support or represent anyone but herself and others who already live with privilege.
Here is a list of some women who are actually worth our support (spoiler alert: Handel is not included).
These women are leading change, but the rest of us should use our voices and join them. 86 percent of people who made pre-election phone calls against Trump were female, for example, and if voting had been restricted to only women, Hillary Clinton would have won the 2016 election (although she, too, is problematic for different reasons). Women also register to vote more often than men and are more likely to vote after registering. Women are more likely to volunteer in their communities and to make charitable donations; we actually donate more than men at every income level, despite typically earning less.
The future really is female. Let’s not be discouraged by Handel’s win.
For more information about women in politics or to get involved with the cause to increase representation, visit: