Everyone, young, old, should vote

(November 5, 2014)

A number of conservative news commentators have suggested that young women should not participate in the civic process or vote this November. In a conversation about the elections, Kimberly Guilfoyle of Fox News, who’s a lawyer, said, “It’s the same reason why young women on juries is not a good idea. They just don’t get it. They’re not in that same life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, health care … they’re just running around without a care in the world,” adding that she would try to strike young women from juries “so they can go back on Tinder or  match.com.”

Tucker Carlson went so far as to say that Republicans should not encourage young women to vote because “it’s wrong to target people whose favorite show is “Say Yes to the Dress.” They are ignorant and only interested in fashion. Kevin Williamson of the National Review Online said that women are too dumb to vote.

What is behind this demeaning rhetoric? The news reporters know that the votes of young women could determine the outcome of the election. Perhaps they believe that these voters are likely to hold political values which differ from their own. Instead of arguing the issues in a constructive forum, they choose the juvenile technique of dismissing their opponents by calling them stupid.

We have heard these views before. It took decades for women to obtain the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th amendment granting them that right was ratified. Some of the arguments against suffrage were no different than what we are hearing today: women are too emotional, they are too innocent, their place is in the home. One pamphlet, opposing suffrage, suggested that “you do not need a ballot to clean out your sink spout. A handful of potash and some boiling water are quicker and cheaper.”

Let us look at the facts. With the increasing allegations of sexual abuse on college campuses and date rape, young women know about crime. They struggle with how to manage debt and pay back student loans and handle their own finances. They are personally impacted by health care as they face challenges to contraceptive access and reproductive freedom. Young women are 33 percent more likely to have college degrees than men, even though they still make less performing the same jobs as men. They obtain the majority of masters’ degrees and an increasing number of doctoral diplomas.

Not only are young females smart; neuroscience research has found that women are more resilient under stress and make less risky and more empathetic decisions in pressured situations.

Of course, young women should not have to prove they have the right to vote. That issue was decided a century ago. But it seems that the battles we believed were settled once and for all in the 20th century are being replayed in the 21st!

It is time that we recognize that gender is not a category that limits potential or achievement, that men and women deserve equal pay for equal work, political and financial independence, educational and career opportunity, and respect for who they are as human beings. To believe otherwise not only limits women but depletes our economic, financial and intellectual resources.

The media should be decrying the abysmal turnout in midterm elections. There is nothing less American than suggesting that women of certain political persuasions not bother themselves with going to the polls. This election is over, but as we gear up for Presidential elections in 2016 the media should be reminding all citizens, men and women, old and young, of their civic responsibility. It is the foundation of our democracy.

Sasso is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck and director of the Religion, Spirituality and the Arts Initiative at Butler University.