No women allowed

Why fighting big money corruption is a feminist issue

MAYDAY.US wanted to launch a gear shop. We also wanted to communicate that reforming our corrupt campaign finance system should be a priority for feminists, people of color, and those who believe social and economic justice are, well, good. Here’s how we did both.

Campaign finance as a feminist issue

You can’t throw a rock without hitting a statistic that supports this thesis. Gender appears to play a significant role in political decision making, especially at the entry-level. And while women tend to perform at par with men with regards to campaign fundraising, they are more likely to take the public financing option if it’s available.

We can’t say for sure that public financing increases the number of women holding elected office — there simply aren’t enough cases to study yet. But we can say that public financing enables more challenges to incumbents, and incumbents are overwhelmingly male. Further, it is much easier to finance an incumbency campaign than a challenge campaign.

In 2004, congressional officeholders spent nearly 3.5 times what challengers spent.

Thus, it’s easier to raise money as an incumbent, and incumbents are men. Specifically, just 10% of Republicans and 25% of Democrats in Congress are women.

There are many reasons this is the case. One of which is also the driving force behind the .79 pay gap between men and women nationally. While women are paid an estimated .79 for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, this is largely due to how we socialize girls and women, steering them into lower-earning jobs, teaching them promotions are for boys.

Skeptical? I’ve got a four year old daughter who can’t take a superhero class at our local gym, because it’s just for boys.

We push women into low-power, low-pay jobs. It’s no wonder we’ve not been able to sufficiently recruit female candidates.

If we want more women in office, at all levels, we need citizen-funded elections.

To highlight this issue, MAYDAY.US has set prices for women’s gear at 79% of the price of men’s and unisex gear — reflective of the acknowledged pay differential. This won’t solve the gender parity issue, nor will it elect more women. But it will draw attention to the fact that women are not afforded the same constitutionally guaranteed right to participation in our democracy.

Until we deal with this, we are not living in a democracy. So buy some gear, damn it.

Cyrus Patten is the Executive Director of MAYDAY.US, a national grassroots campaign to fight corruption by electing reformers at all levels of our democracy. Follow him on Twitter.