House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa's all-male panel at a hearing on the contraception mandate. (February 16th, 2012)
It may be the start of Women’s History Month, but put your money on 2012 being the Year of the Woman.
We are witnessing an escalating national debate over women’s health issues-- ranging from contraception access to mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds for those seeking an abortion-- and women who might have previously been uninterested in politics are discovering that apathy could very well lead to the passage of laws that will affect their everyday lives.
The (now infamous) image of the all-male panel at Rep. Darrell Issa’s February 16 committee hearing on contraception coverage had everyone asking: Where are the women?
That question wasn’t just aimed at the committee but at the legislature itself. Though we’ve had the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on the front lines of the issues, when you take a look at the number of women in Congress it’s not as surprising that the debate has become so unbalanced. The US ranks 78th in the world (tied with Turkmenistan) for percentage of women in office and 2010 saw the number of women in Congress decline for the first time in 30 years, with women now making up only 17%. One group is looking to change all that.
The 2012 Project describes itself as “a national, non-partisan campaign of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) to increase the number of women in Congress and state legislatures by taking advantage of the once-in-a-decade opportunities of 2012.”
Redistricting, a result of the 2010 census, will create new and open seats in government throughout the US and voting on those seats will coincide with the Presidential election (something that only happens once every 20 years)—creating a perfect storm capable of ushering a record number of women into office.
The 2012 Project has been mobilizing to capitalize on the moment—launching education campaigns and outreach programs aimed at recruiting women who might not have previously considered running. The project has assembled a “faculty of former elected women legislators to share the facts about women’s underrepresentation and the many benefits of public service” and they provide those women interested in candidacy with connections to “leadership institutes, think tanks, campaign training programs and fundraising networks.”
The obvious lack of balance in our current political discourse only highlights the importance of women getting involved—but recent issues aside, it’s time for the ladies to get out and have their voices heard. (Ps. This also means, GET OUT AND VOTE!)
As The 2012 Project’s site says, “Don’t Get Mad. Get Elected.”