Like every woman in Pennsylvania, I am represented entirely by men at the federal level.
My home district, PA-1, has never been represented in Congress by a woman. In fact, Pennsylvania is the largest state with an all-male congressional delegation. We rank 49th in the country for female representation in government.
This is dismal. But this year, historic numbers of women throughout the country are running for office. And I’m proud to be one of them.
After Donald Trump won the presidential election, I felt compelled to run for office. Having served my country on active duty in the military, prosecuted sexual assault crimes, and worked as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, I felt I had to step up and use my experience to fight back against his dangerous agenda.
"I've had sexual demands on social media. I've had rape threats."
And yet, running for office as a woman is a very different experience than it is for a man. Despite my military credentials, I get asked if I’m "tough enough" to serve. I'm asked how I could possibly handle being a mom and a congresswoman at the same time. Some people have even asked why my husband isn’t running instead.
These are not questions my male counterparts will ever have to answer. Their strength, dedication, and leadership are assumed.
And I assume neither of my male opponents has ever had a message hit his inbox that threatens, “I want to find you in a dark alley. It’s always better when you’re terrified.” I've had inappropriate comments. I've had sexual demands on social media. I've had rape threats.
Luckily, I have thick skin, mostly thanks to my time in the Navy. But these comments aren't just from random strangers on the internet — I hear them on the campaign trail too.
"No woman expects to be elected solely because she is female."
It feels remarkably tone-deaf when I hear another candidate tell voters that he is excited it’s “the year of the woman." That he tried to find a "prominent" woman to run before he felt compelled to throw his own hat in the ring.
Look: We won’t have a "year of the woman" by politely asking men to step out of the way. No woman expects to be elected solely because she is female. We believe we can win because of our hard work, unique experiences, and commitment to our communities.
I am hopeful that the groundswell of women running this year will be enough to change the calculus in Washington. Those of us who have gotten off the sidelines cannot do this alone. We need other women, and men, beside us demanding a collective seat at the table. Even in the so-called "year of the woman," we still have to fight twice as hard.
This op-ed solely reflects the views of the author, and is part of a larger, feminist discourse.