On Election Day in 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy: Disagreements over strategy threatened to cripple the movement more than once. But on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. ~History.com
Nearly 100 years later the fight continues. You don’t have to look far for an example of women being treated as less than. The news and our everyday lives are riddled with examples of women being viewed and treated as less than human. I wonder how many women can say they have never experienced being made to feel unequal? I wonder how many women can say they have never felt violated?
Because activists and reformers fought for 100 years to declare that all women deserve the rights and responsibilities of citizenship like men, I believed in my voice when I was eighteen years old. Even when my pleas to stop weren’t heard, I believed my voice mattered. I believed in my right to protection when I was raped. I called the police. I filled charges. When the court system failed me, I fought hard to hold on to my voice. It slipped away.
Year after year my voice slipped away. I wanted to bury my past. I wanted to pretend it never happened. I was silenced.
This summer a very brave girl came forward and shared her voice with the world when her rapist was sent to prison for three months in order to protect his future. Her words cracked me wide open, and my story of rape came spilling out. Because of her strength, I found my strength. Her voice gave me my voice back. I will never be silent again.
On Election Day in 2016, we have a choice to make. We aren’t voting for the constitution to be ratified. We are voting to continue the movement. We are voting for forward progress for humanity. We are voting for the millions of American women who showed up in 1920 to exercise their right to vote for the first time. We are voting for every girl who has been made to feel less than and whose body has been abused. We are voting for every boy who has been raised to be good and honest.
Finding our voice as women and as Americans gave a voice to every other minority group in American. This led to equal rights for even more Americans. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In 1965, African Americans were legally granted the right to vote. In June 2015, same sex marriages were legalized. Our country is better because of it. We are gaining momentum. We are one day and one step closer to living in a world where every single person is valued.
But we are being challenged.
It’s time we use our voice. There is no better way to silence the Donald Trumps of the world than by putting a woman into the position of power that they seek.
For one hundred years, activists and reformers fought for equal rights for women. They were met with disagreements over the strategy to make this possible that nearly crippled the movement. One hundred years later, we are faced with another choice. We can be crippled by disagreements over the strategy on how to continue to grow our country into a place where everyone’s voice matters and every person has value, or we can use our voice to say no.
No, I will not let a system silence my voice.
No, I will not someone represent my country that doesn’t believe that others have basic fundamental human rights.
No, I will not let our country slip backwards.
We have everything we need to stop this madness. You see, while our mothers and grandmothers were often powerless to change their circumstances, today, we as women have all the power we need to determine the outcome of this election.
We have knowledge. We have a voice. We have a vote. And on November the 8th, we as women, we as Americans, we as decent human beings can come together and declare that enough is enough, and we do not tolerate this kind of behavior in this country. ~Michelle Obama
Our system may be flawed, but our roots are strong. At our root, we are country that believes in freedom for all individuals. On November 8, 2016, I will be using my voice in the hope that it does what our country does best. It gives strength to others.
If you haven’t heard or read Michelle Obama’s words, please read them all here.