Soapbox

Women won’t be heard if they’re not in the room

hamezcua@sacbee.com

As the first woman presidential nominee from a major party, Hillary Clinton isn’t merely a symbol of another barrier falling. She is an example of how hard a woman has to work to achieve the same respect as a man.

Her nomination gives me a mix of joy, fear and exhaustion.

Joy, our country will come closer to having a woman of color as president. I also know how exhausting it is for a woman of color to attain leadership.

Fear, we might lose years of progress, if Trump becomes president, or become complacent about the work needed to achieve gender parity, especially for women of color.

Exhaustion, as I’ve had to work three times as hard because I am a Latina woman while my Caucasian colleagues have to work twice as hard as men.

In our nation’s founding documents, we declared all men are created equal. It took 143 years for women to get their right to vote. More women than men vote today, but only one in five members in Congress are women, which is behind the global average. In California – among the nation’s most progressive states, fewer women serve in the Legislature today than 10 years ago.

President Barack Obama says Clinton is the most qualified person to ever run for president. Bill Clinton describes her life of public service, including registering Latino American voters, helping educate disabled children, and ensuring people have access to legal aid. That gets lost amid the chauvinistic partisan rancor.

If a woman with her qualifications and education can be hated, what chance do the rest of us women have? As vice chairwoman of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, I recruit women to run for office because we need more female voices in Sacramento. Our government won’t remember us if we aren’t in the room to remind them we exist.

In the coming election, the number of Democratic women could increase from 19 to 31 in the Legislature. But we need more than numbers. We need a diverse perspective when crafting policies.

This year, we are focused on legislation guaranteeing paid family leave in California. This gives both parents the opportunity to stay home and care for their new child without the fear of losing their job, a critical policy that is standard in most other developed nations.

I am working on repealing the tax on feminine hygiene products, which, essentially, tax a woman’s period. No woman should struggle to access essential products.

Because of the Brock Turner case, we found a loophole in California’s law, and I introduced a bill that modernizes the definition of rape. When we fail to call rape what it is, we rob survivors of true justice. All survivors of non-consensual rape should have access to justice.

The issues that face our state demand discussion, from all perspectives, especially. The voices of those who have dealt with these issues should be involved.

Progress cannot end with nominating or electing the first woman president. Women must move forward in all facets of society, business and government, including the Legislature. It’s important we not just have more women at the table, but women from all walks of life.

In my lifetime, California will have a woman governor and a Latina commander in chief. But this won’t be a true women’s movement if it lacks intersectionality. It has to be a human movement.

When we raise women, our society reaps the rewards, men and women alike. After all, that might be your mother, wife, niece, grandmother or daughter. We need to raise all women, not just those who look like Hillary Clinton.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is a Democrat from Bell Gardens. assemblymember.garcia@assembly.ca.gov

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