In this op-ed, Mika Doyle, a Bustle Lifestyle writer, lays out why all the 2018 midterm "firsts" were just further proof that the patriarchy has been at work until now.
As election results came trickling in Tuesday night, the country began to see some historic firsts in the 2018 midterm elections. Several women of color were "the firsts" to be elected to Congress. And women smashed records as well, with the youngest woman and a record number of women elected to Congress, too.
In Boston, Ayanna Pressley will become the first black woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress. At age 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will be the first Muslim women in Congress, while Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland will be the first Native American women in Congress.
These firsts add a level of diversity to the nation’s leadership that the country has never seen before. Only 19 percent of Congress includes people of color compared to 38 percent of the general population, according to the Pew Research Center. And only 19 percent of Congress are women (before now), the Center for American Women and Politics reported. So it’s clear that better representation is needed to ensure the leaders who are making the decisions for the greater population actually represent that population.
But, while it’s absolutely amazing to see such much-needed representation at the highest levels of government, it’s tough not to feel a twinge of rage that these are firsts at all. Because what these firsts truly reveal is that we’re still fighting a patriarchal system that believes women — women of color, in particular — are second-class citizens.
And there’s research to show it. A recent study published in Springer’s journal Sex Roles found that people are not as accepting of women in power as they may admit publicly, according to a news release. The researchers found that people’s implicit biases against women make them feel much less confident about a woman’s ability as a leader than they do a man’s, the news release said, but they didn’t feel comfortable actually saying that because they didn’t think it was socially acceptable.
So, it kind of makes sense that we’re "celebrating" these kind of wins this election cycle. Many people in power for so long have believed that women and women of color do not belong beside them as key decision-makers for this nation. Many even seem to not believe women have any intrinsic value, not as people or even as issues that need to be addressed at a legislative level.
That’s why it’s taken until 2018 for this country to elect Native American and Muslim women to Congress. It’s taken until 2018 for this country to elect a young Latina woman to Congress. Boston electing a black woman to represent them in Congress for the first time is newsworthy. So, yes, Tuesday was a win — but it was a win that should have come so much earlier than this.