A lot of feminists have become disenfranchised by politics. It seems like every time we get a good, qualified, pro-choice female candidate, the party backs a more “reliable” male candidate. Oftentimes, female candidates fall subject to blatantly sexist criticisms.
Take Jennifer Brunner, who on May 4 lost the Democratic primary for a senate seat in Ohio. Brunner served as Ohio’s Secretary of State. During her tenure, Brunner led massive election reforms to ensure that the 2008 election and overhauled Ohio’s reputation as a state plagued by election problems. Brunner has a strong belief that more women should run for office, and actively recruited young women to work on her campaign so they could gain political experience. She is a fantastic advocate for women’s rights, a seasoned politician, and a recipient of a Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. In short, Brunner was the perfect candidate.
However, she faced many obstacles running against Lee Fisher, the Lieutenant Governor in Ohio. Brunner was discouraged from running by the Democratic Party in Ohio, essentially told to be quiet and “stay in her place.” She faced blatant sexism in the media and from the Democratic Party that ultimately led to her defeat, despite a valiant effort to travel the state by bus reaching out to voters at the grassroots level.
Although discouraging, Brunner’s defeat on Tuesday should NOT keep women from running for office. It’s critical that pro-choice women keep running for office—the more pro-choice members of Congress there are, the less likely it is that pro-life right-wing groups will take away women’s rights.
Every time a woman runs for office, she is breaking down sexist barriers in politics. And although all women face obstacles unique to her gender, the more women run, the less insurmountable these obstacles will be.