Why I’ll Be Voting for Her (Hint: It’s Because She’s a Woman)

I hopped on Twitter the other day, a habit I’ve recently formed and probably need to break, to find that #WomenRule was trending. Going through the top threads, you can immediately see a familiar narrative that’s played out again and again in American politics and social issues.

  1. Recognize an imbalance.
  2. Advocate for a righting of the ship.
  3. Immediately get dog piled upon for daring to suggest that decisions ever be made to consciously swing the pendulum back to anything resembling parity.

Seeing these angry responses to the idea of voting for a female candidate with the express interest of increasing their representation in the political sphere got me thinking about whether or not there’s a valid case for it.

In the great state of Oregon we get these pamphlets mailed out for every election with blurbs, platforms and talking point submitted by the candidates. I’m not sure you’ve heard, but liberal is perhaps too mild of a term to describe the city of Portland. We love our openly bisexual governor and hate our very own cake baker who also tried to discriminate against LGBTQ+ patrons.

So, when I go to crack open this hundred page explainer to figure out how to fill out my one page bubble sheet, it’s not exactly the most shocking of experiences to realize that there are 17 nearly identical candidates running for county commissioner.

I do what any good citizen does and pull out a brand new sheet of college-ruled paper to make a pros/cons list. And there are so many metrics to base a candidate off of!

  • Issues, like homelessness or public transit funding to decrease emissions and traffic.
  • Experience in government, which might lead to either lacking the knowledge and follow-through needed to succeed or laziness in breaking the habits of predecessors.
  • Background, like time in the military or the public school system.

In the face of this, what does it mean to choose the ‘best candidate?’ And is it unfair to consider gender, race or other characteristics of the candidate in question?

When making my list, I was reminded that in order to start ranking qualities of candidates, I needed to think about things in terms of outcomes. What legislative actions am I hoping they’ll achieve once elected?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about issues specifically affecting women. Is it ‘sexist’ for me to want my elected officials to work toward eliminating the gender wage gap? I certainly hope not.

Congresswomen are more likely to bring legislation affecting women to the floor than their male counterparts. Take a look at Kirsten Gillibrand’s building legacy of women-focused platforms. In a sea of candidates who otherwise look the same, isn’t it statistically prudent to assume that the female politicians might be more likely to advocate for policies that are important to me?

Setting policy aside, there’s also interesting research on the important role of representation in pretty much every area that’s been analyzed. Among people who apply for patents, there’s a strong link between growing up in an area with an unusually high percentage of female inventors and becoming a female inventor yourself.

This pushback that you see against voting for female candidates based on gender fundamentally fails to price in the importance of representation. It posits a system of maximum utility (which is subjective) while ignoring or downplaying the social science behind why having women in power matters.

At the end of the day, there seems to be no valid argument that we can correct our highly imbalanced course without actually taking that final step of choosing to have #WomenRule.