Why are so many women apolitical? Why do they have so much trouble making the leap from the personal to the public? I’m sure part of it is a desire for privacy, but I think most of it is because women have blinders on. They just don’t see that what they do in their private lives has a ripple effect. One woman’s experiences may not seem relevant for all women, but add up all the women in the same situations, and their relevance multiplies.
There are two reasons why it’s important to see your life in a broader perspective. One is that women who are having problems tend to keep their troubles to themselves. They think that they’re the only ones who can’t get their act together, or the only ones who are being victimized. They don’t realize that if they spoke out, they would find out that they’re not alone. Sometimes a lone individual can change the system, but it’s much easier to effect change when you get together with a group of like-minded individuals.
This is also true when good things happen to women. When one woman is successful, it can be seen as an aberration. But if that woman shares her experience with others, thus enabling them to replicate her success, it becomes a force to be reckoned with. People have to pay attention when it happens to more than one person. It is ultimately self-defeating to keep your recipe for success to yourself. You might be proud of your personal accomplishments, but you will feel isolated and be seen as inaccessible.
Women tend to be apolitical is because of their lack of faith in the system. The way our society is set up favors men. (Especially white upper class men.) Women feel like their voices go unheard. And they’re right more often than not. But that’s because women also lack faith in themselves. They need to see that they have a right to demand changes that will benefit them and address their concerns.
This brings up another problem: women don’t operate the way that men do because they don’t have the power that men do. But they will never get the power until they band together. Why do we think that men get their way more often than not? Because they have a network going for them. Women need to create their own network, by sharing their problems and their solutions. That network could be feminism.
Women are also prone to ignore politics because they see it as a dirty business. They believe that getting involved in politics would require them to compromise their principles. They may be right, but does it have to be that way? If enough women stepped up to the plate and played the game according to their rules, the game would eventually be changed.
The game has changed some over the past four decades but women still have many concerns that are being ignored or threatened (such as the right to determine what happens to one’s own body). I’m going to make some blanket statements here; feel free to disagree. Women in general prefer diplomacy over military action, peace over war. They are more protective of the weaker members of our society, such as children and the elderly (probably because they are the primary caretakers for both). Women favor the intangibles in life more than the material (often to their detriment economically). They are underserved by the health care system, more likely to work in dead-end jobs, and less likely to earn as much as their male counterparts. All of these conditions ensure that women are going to have different priorities than men have.
Can we count on men to do our work for us? Or are we going to start relying on ourselves to get the ball rolling? As long as we keep hiding in our private lives, we will never have a big impact on public policy.