Go ahead and vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman | Jessica Valenti

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Only in a sexist society would women be told that caring about representation at the highest levels of government is wrong

When it comes to women in politics, the United States is pretty much the pits. Women make up half the population in this country but hold less than 20% of Congressional seats and comprise less than 25% of state legislators. The numbers for women of color are even more dismal.

On the world stage, the US ranks 72nd in womens political participation, far worse than most industrialized countries and with numbers similar to Saudi Arabias. A United Nations working group late last year called attention to this disparity in a report that found massive discrimination against women across the board, an overall picture of womens missing rights.

And so it seems strange that at a time when the country has the opportunity to elect the first woman president, the idea that gender might be a factor is considered shallow in some circles.

Only in a sexist society would women be told that caring about representation at the highest levels of government is wrong. Only in a sexist society would women believe it.

There has been an extraordinary amount of scorn both from the right and from Bernie Sanders supporters around the notion that Hillary Clinton and women planning on voting for her are playing the gender card. The criticism comes in part from Clintons unabashed embrace of womens issues as a central part of her presidential campaign, and in part lets be frank simply because Clinton is a woman.

The absurd conclusion these detractors are making is that if gender plays any role in a womans vote, it must be her sole litmus test. (If that were the case, youd see throngs of feminists supporting Sarah Palin or Carly Fiorina.) As author and New York magazine contributor Rebecca Traister has written, Somehow the admission of gender as a factor in support for her creates an opportunity to dismiss not only enthusiasm for Clinton as feminized and thus silly, but also a whole body of feminist argument that concerns itself with the underrepresentation of women in politics.

One could argue that, gender aside, Clintons policies are better for women than Sanderss – Naral Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthoods endorsements speak to that some, as does Clintons vocalemphasis on repealing the Hyde Amendment, which denies poor women the ability to obtain reproductive healthcare. But there is also nothing untoward about pointing out that the groundbreaking first of a female president would also benefit women.

After all, while President Obamas tenure hasnt lead to any post-racial utopia, the symbolism of the first black president forever changed the way this nation thinks and talks about race. The first female president, while certain to bring misogynists out of the woodwork at proportions that will make GamerGate look tame, would likely do the same for gender.

There is nothing wrong or foolish in thinking about a candidates gender in an election. It is politically savvy to vote for your interests. It is smart to think about the long game for womens rights. And for those of us with our bodies literally on the line, it is wise to cast a vote that you believe will be the most likely to ensure women wont be forced into pregnancy, arrested for having miscarriages or any other of the horrifying consequences that anti-abortion Republican leadership would surely pursue.

For some people, even weighing gender heavily in their political decision-making still wont mean a vote for Clinton. But if it does, their vote should be respected as a well-informed one. Dismissing those who want to take gender into account is turning your back on the basic democratic principle that people have the right to be politically represented.

Electing women into office is important for womens equality, and its also crucial for our countrys health. Considering that truth in the election booth is not caring about a single issue. Its voting smart.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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