Political pundits have many explanations for why the 2012 Presidential election turned out as it did. They talk about the economy, the wars, Medicare, the obscene amounts of money spent on ads, the changing demographic of our country to a darker shade of pale. But I believe The Women of America are the reason that Barack Obama won a second term. Years ago, women were denied the opportunity to get an education, to choose their own spouses (or choose not to choose), or to own property. They were ostracized, beaten -- even tortured for presuming that they had the right to participate in the election of men who had the power to legislate their lives. [Oh, how I wish the movie Iron-Jawed Angels were part of the standard curriculum in ever U.S. History class in every U.S. high school, lest we forget our past.]
In the 1950's, when I was growing up in a conservative small town in rural northwestern Pennsylvania, I remember being warned not to walk past a certain house, not to play with the children who lived there, never to speak to their mother. Why? Because she was divorced. She had committed the unforgivable sin of leaving her husband. What if he had abused her or her children? Drank up his paycheck and left his family to go hungry? Beat everybody in the house? No matter. She was supposed to stay and be a good wife. If she left, nobody would hire her. Nobody would befriend her. She and her children would surely end up homeless, if not dead, unless some family member braved the disapproval of the family and community to take them in. Girls who got pregnant -- by their boyfriends or their uncles or their fathers or their preachers -- were required to bear the babies which were then taken away from them so the girl could continue her life (branded as a 'bad girl') without the burden or joy of raising her child. If a women found herself pregnant without the money or emotional strength to raise another child, and if she didn't have the money for an abortion, she used a coat hanger or threw herself down a flight of stairs or drank an herbal concoction promised to result in a painful and perhaps fatal miscarriage.
Fast forward to 2012. Women can now own property. Women earn almost as much as men do for equal work. Women outnumber men on college campuses nationwide. Women have access to birth control and, in some cases, safe abortions. Women can not only vote -- they hold senior positions in our state and federal government. Women are no longer ignorant and weak and frightened. We are educated, powerful and fearless. We have excellent memories and our shared history trumps our political differences. Every woman in this country -- gay, straight, bisexual, celibate -- shares the same biological concerns. And every woman in this country is offended by the ignorance, arrogance and stupidity of men in positions of great power who use their position to trivialize rape and incest, who proclaim their right to legislate the most intimate decisions women face, and who insult our intelligence by making biologically incorrect statements. And the men who love those women are equally enraged.
I believe that's what turned this election. Yes, the economy is important. Yes, jobs are important. So is Medicare and the budget and immigration reform and world peace. But those big issues can't compete with the individual personal issues that affect individual American lives. For every girl who was impregnated against her will, there are siblings and parents and grandparents and cousins and neighbors and teachers and church members who reject the idea that a child should be forced to bear the child of her rapist. For every woman who has been raped, there are husbands and brothers and fathers and grandfathers and uncles and neighbors -- men who are also injured and insulted and enraged that those powerful political men presume to tell them what to do or not to do.
Women and the men who love them are the people who decided this election. Women and the men who love them chose a president and a political party that acknowledges their humanity (flawed though it may be), their hearts, and their right to be treated with dignity and respect. Women and the men who love them know that we can't forget our history or our future. That's why those women and men elected the highest number of females to the U.S. Senate in our country's history. We are counting on those women -- and the men who love them -- to lead us forward.