Last week, I sat in at the state Senate Democratic caucus, where Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, was named as the new minority leader for the next legislative session. This new Democratic caucus is quite representative of what Wisconsin’s population actually is in regards to gender, as half of the caucus’ 14 members are now women. In addition, three of the four leadership roles within the caucus are held by women.
Shilling is the right choice to lead Democrats for the next two years. It is long overdue to have a woman in this position, as well as having half of the caucus be women. We are living in the 21st century, yet politics is a typically male-dominated field. This allows misrepresentation in politics and male-centric views to be the norm. I advocate for women to be in powerful positions in our government. Not only are women capable for those positions, but they also bring a different view to the table.
We could have made history this year if Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke would have been elected. We would have made history if one more female Democratic state Senate candidate would have won their race. Unfortunately, we did not accomplish that. Although it is disappointing, I am proud to say that half of our caucus is women, whereas the Republican state Senate caucus does not have anywhere near 50 percent women. I believe that says a lot about the Democratic Party in Wisconsin; it is representative of what Wisconsin is and what the state stands for.
It is important for our representatives – in Wisconsin and in Washington D.C. – to be representative of what the constituency’s demographics are in order to represent the people adequately. People from different backgrounds have different experience. Elect one kind of candidate and generally speaking, only their experiences will be considered in the legislative decision-making process. This leads to one population making decisions for everyone else.
I am proud of how far we have come since the United States was formed. We have over 100 women in Congress, an African-American president and potential female candidates for president in 2016. We have come a long way, but we still have room to grow even more. We live in the United States and have yet to elect a president or vice president who is a woman. We are supposed to be the “superpower” of the world. How can we be a superpower, if we have never had a woman be in one of the two top positions in government? More than 50 countries have elected women to be head of government or head of state positions. The first female to be elected head of government was in 1960 in Sri Lanka. Almost 55 years later, the United States has yet to elect a woman to the top position.
In our government, we have men making decisions for women about their health, among other matters. This is simply not right. Why should men be able to make decisions regarding women’s health – a matter they do not necessarily have knowledge of or stake in? Male legislators in Wisconsin and around the country repeatedly push for legislation that limits access to abortion and other healthcare services targeted at women, such as defunding Planned Parenthood. It is absolutely preposterous that a male-dominated legislative branch is essentially allowed to make decisions for women regarding their bodies.
With the new leadership in the state Senate Democratic caucus and beyond, I believe that we will start seeing new and fresh perspectives from Shilling and women around the country.
Autumn Linsmeier ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science.