The dominoes that continue to fall have thrown our state politics into a frenzy. At the heart of the resignations and announcements, one question is not being asked: What about the women?
Our state ranks 48th nationally in female representation in our Legislature and is consistently named one of the unhealthiest places in the country for women. We incarcerate more women in Oklahoma than anywhere else, and the poverty epidemic is rising every second.
Instead of lifting women up, our state Legislature, year after year, continues to attempt to defund preventative womens health services and make it more difficult for Oklahoma women to escape the grips of poverty by proposing
more and more barriers for vital social services. If you dont think
this has anything to do with only 20 out of our 149 state legislators
being women, then Oklahomans need to wake up.
With the exception of Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas and Senator Connie Johnson, Oklahoma women have been left out of the conversation to represent our state at the national level.
Not only are women being left out at the top of the ticket, but those already seated at the tables of power are largely only looking at recruiting the same old type of candidates to fill the open seats in our Legislature. We have an opportunity, with so many open seats, to make a real impact this year. It is a proven fact that voters will vote for women just as often as men when given the opportunity. So Im challenging the party elite on both sides of the aisle: look for women to run in every seat until we achieve gender equality in our Legislature.
I am a 28-year-old mother of a vibrant 3-year-old little girl. If this challenge is not accepted, I worry she will grow up in an Oklahoma that does not give her a seat at the table simply because she is a woman. She has a dynamic personality and already makes friends with everyone she meets. As someone who has worked in politics for more than a decade, I think to myself, Shes a natural leader. If we continue down the same path and she chooses a career in politics someday, she will likely be facing a system that continues to recruit the same candidates: white men from privileged backgrounds.
I know Im doing everything in my power to make sure this changes sooner rather than later, but without a collective effort, this effort is doomed to fail.
So party elites, state legislators, political professionals, political donors and Oklahoma voters, accept the challenge. Make Oklahoma a better place for Oklahoma women. Demand that our daughters grow up in a state that represents them equally. Make the first question you ask be, What about the women?
Cassi Peters is a political consultant with over a decade of experience in Oklahoma politics. She lives in Norman with her daughter, Josi.
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