A few days ago, I heard a young man on campus from out of country say that he was fine with the decisions our representatives in government were making, and that he didn't see a problem in who was representing him in the government. Even though he doesn't have anyone in government from the same background as him. Even though the breakdown of representation in the House looks like this:
Gender: Men: 248; Women: 83
Race: White: 339; Black: 46; Hispanic: 33; Asian: 10; Other: 3
and the breakdown of the representation in the Senate looks like this:
Gender: Men: 78; Women: 21
Race: White: 90; Black: 3; Hispanic: 4; Asian: 3
While the United States of America has a demographic breakdown of:
|White alone, percent, July 1, 2016||76.90%|
|Black or African American alone, percent, July 1, 2016||13.30%|
|Hispanic or Latino, percent, July 1, 2016||17.80%|
|American Indian and Alaska Native alone, percent, July 1, 2016||1.30%|
|Asian alone, percent, July 1, 2016||5.70%|
With women at 50.8% of the population in 2016.
But he's okay with it! He doesn't mind that his racial minority is underrepresented in his lawmaking bodies. He doesn't think it makes a difference that even though women make up half of this country's population, their representation in Congress is a stark 25%. One quarter.
On one hand, I guess I can understand where he's coming from. We did elect these people into office, because we trust that of all of the available candidates, they were the most qualified and most likely to vote with their demographic's best intentions in mind. Yes, we did pick them. But stop to consider that our choices were extremely limited. Women don't run for positions in Congress as much as men do. So, sure we picked the people we now ridicule in office, but our pickings were slim. Why don't more women run for government?
And it doesn't change the fact that an unrepresentative group is trying to make decisions about women, especially when we're talking about abortions and birth control, issues that disproportionately affect more women than men, yet men are the majority of people making these decisions. This issue with representation is that men can't make informed decisions for women. They just can not. There is a limit to the vicarious capacity of humans; sometimes, you can not learn everything about a situation just listening to it or watching it, you have to live it.
Take for example my experiences in college. Four years ago, my brother was exactly where I am as a college freshman, learning the ropes of an entirely new lifestyle. Everything he said, I listened to and thought that I understood what he meant. But I definitely did not. I did not know what he meant until I got there. I didn't understand when he said college was 1000 times more difficult than high school. I registered in my brain that yes, it's difficult, but I didn't understand the extent of it until I actually got here and lived it myself. (Peep my article on this very topic: 10 Things College Students Say That I Now Know To Be True).
Inherently, then, men can't make decisions about things they've never, ever experienced, like periods or pregnancy. There's the famous fallacy of men being extreme advocates for pro-life, anti-abortion, until their own significant others unexpectedly get pregnant, and then they want an abortion. Remember that episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia? Yeah, that's what this situation is exactly. You don't know what something is like until you live it yourself.
Given that, how can we expect an unrepresentative body of people to make fair decisions about our lives? We can't. It's about gaining empathy for people different from you, and often times it's not possible until you understand them and listen to their stories, even if you can't live them yourself. In order for that to work, you need to have voices in government that can represent those populations. So why aren't there more women in government? Why aren't there more minorities in government?
This is something we need to think more deeply about. This is an issue that needs more voices, more serious voices. Let's get more representation in government. Women like Hillary Clinton and Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) are going to bring about big change, as role models for younger women picking their career paths. We need more women like them. We need more people like them.
**Props to Always Sunny; we need more conversation like this. Sometimes satire is what it takes to get people talking.**