19 September 2008

Women Matter: Getting Regular Women Engaged in Politics

Last week, I lamented that Palin Fever seemed to have exposed a real disconnect between feminism (or more generally, all people working on behalf of women in politics) and the "woman on the Street." The fact that hordes of women were flocking to throw their support and adulation behind a woman who has no track record of actually helping their situation in meaningful ways first horrified me, then made me sad that somehow our message had gotten lost to these women, even alienated them.

But hooray for Smith College! The current issue of the Alumnae Quarterly is focused on politics and the campaign and featured Women Matter, a site founded by Smith alum Nancy W. Bauer specifically to engage women in the political process by discussing the links and impact of policy on what they call Life Issues. It's a non-partisan site that seeks to clearly lay out the issues and explain the various possible remedies. Each Life Issues section also ends with concrete action a woman can take - from the simple act of registering to vote, to how you can get informed of your local and national representatives' positions, to contacting those representatives to tell them where you stand.

I think this is just fabulous. After all, I can understand how someone not brought up or educated in an environment of political participation or activism would fall prey to the cynical view that your votes doesn't even matter or that the only ways to engage are through specific interest groups. With these simple, personal, concrete steps, I think any woman can get involved and start to build confidence in their voice and that it carries weight in the process.

Unfortunately, I really hadn't heard of them before this. I'm hoping this is my own ignorance, since I really think this is an organization that ought to be a reference for everyone from the TV Talking Heads to high school Civics teachers and, of course, individual women.