Anita Hill, who testified that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harrassed her.
Even though most of our generation was just coming into this world or learning how to walk, you have probably heard of Anita Hill.
During the 1991 televised confirmation hearing for now Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment.
Many Thomas supporters tried to paint Hill as a woman seeking revenge or waging a “racially motivated character assassination” — even though Thomas and Hill are both African-American.
In a time of tense gender politics, when sexual harassment was not a topic of open discussion, Hill served as an example of heroic social change. The 1991 testimonial sparked an outrage amongst American women. This led to a rise in female involvement in politics and a growth in feminist organizations.
In fact, 1992 became known as the “Year of the Woman” — as a result of the record number of women that ran for public office. And won.
Where does this leave us now? There are currently 78 women serving in the House 17 in the Senate.
That means less than 16% of Congress is made up of women, even though women make up more than 50% of the population.
How can a legislative body be truly representative of the population if more than half the United States is barely present within that body? The unfortunate answer is that it cannot.
Youth make up 24%, roughly one fourth of the voting population. To put this in perspective, there are 46 million between the ages of 18 and 29 that are eligible to vote, while there are only 39 million senior citizens that are eligible.
Among young voters that participated in the 2008 cycle, roughly 55% were women. Thus, youth civic engagement — particularly that of women — has the capacity to make a sizeable impact on elections.
However, only between 49.3 and 54.5 percent of eligible youth voters participated in the 2008 election.
The numbers show a gap youth voter participation and the electoral system needs for engagement from 18-24 year-olds. Particularly, the United States needs women to be more engaged in the electoral system.
“It’s really important, especially for young women, to become engaged in the political process early on, “ says Emily Yu, current Student Government President at American University in Washington D.C.
There is a solution to the gender misrepresentation that currently exists in Congress. It starts with voting in every election.
Beyond voting, there is a need for involvement with feminist organizations like EMILY’s List, interning for pro-women members of Congress, supporting female candidates and eventually, running for office.
“Not only is it important to know the issues and how you feel about them, but also to put your opinions and ideas into action. Getting involved with student government in college has been crucial for me in building the skills necessary to be an effective legislator and advocate,” says Yu.
The young women of this nation have the potential to change the current “politics as usual” and it really starts at the level of the individual. So while you are young, get involved and help make a difference — for your sake and for mine.
“The combination of finding your beliefs early, working in a legislative body and a campaign and running yourself even if it is just on your college campus will undoubtedly help transform more college women into future politicians,” says Yu.
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