Women's Suffrage and Taking a Knee
Taking a Knee is a natural extension of the Women’s Suffrage movement, pictured here at Philadelphia headquarters, 1917. Not much has changed in a century. (Credit: Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing, photographerPublic Domain)

Taking a knee” during the National Anthem has grown into a valid form of political protest. NFL players use the act of genuflecting – usually a sign of respect or religious worship – to express solidarity and objection to the growing tide of police brutality in America.

Many people miss that this is also a sign of victory when a touchdown is made. Perhaps this is a demonstration that political dissent will result in victory.

It is time American women joined the movement. Women should send a signal that they no longer accept a different kind of brutality – that of more than two centuries of political oppression.

Taking a Knee Started with the Suffrage Movement

At the time of the founding of the country, women had zero input into the drafting of our Constitution. As a result, women were afforded few rights and protections. Of course, no one of color had any input in either, but that is another conversation.

Even before the landing at Plymouth Rock, a woman was thought of as chattel. She was property of first her father, then her husband. Domestic violence was unheard of and not because many women weren’t being abused. It was the man’s right to “put his hands” on his wife. Men were viewed as the sole authority inside the home. A wife was more less a possession and a man was free to do what he pleased.

From the nation’s founding in 1776 to the official formation of the women’s suffrage movement 1915, women had no voice in government. The possibility of it happening did not exist. It took five more years of fighting for women to earn the right to access the ballot box. Women continue on their 144-year journey towards equality. Today they seek their rightful place in schools, the boardroom and government.

This disparity is the most evident in American politics. How women are represented by the two dominant parties paints a vivid picture.

Are Women Represented?

According to Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, and Rutgers University, women hold only 20% of the seats in Congress.

Of the 107 women who do serve, 35.5% are of color. Almost all are Democrats.

Of the 51 GOP members, six are women. All are Caucasian. Another 23 Republican women serve in the House of Representatives. Only three are of color.

There are 29 Republican women serving in Congress.

How Do the Democrats Measure up?

Democrats have adopted a much different approach. Diversity has been the party’s defining characteristic. Female representation within the party bears this out.

After the 2016 election, there were 433 seats in the House. Of these, 187 were filled by Democrats.

Of Democrats in the House of Representatives, women fill 61 seats. Black women fill 17 of those, Latinas and Asian Pacific Islanders each claim seven seats. In the Senate’s 100 seats, Democrats garnered 44 seats in the last election. Of these, women fill 17 seats, and four of those women are of color.

Nearly half of Democratic women legislators are of color.

Democrats represent women in far greater numbers than Republicans. There is only one party representing women of color and their interests. This trend is repeated in state legislatures and in Governors’ offices throughout the nation.

Recent Political Events

Recent events show us how well this is working out for women. The Supreme Court hearings for Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh brought to light a travesty for women, the Constitution and the rule of law in America.

It is obvious that the GOP hopes Kavanaugh is a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Despite outcry from legions of women, Kavanaugh was confirmed by Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Those making the decision were all male and all white.

Kavanaugh demonstrated this male elitism by refusing to shake the hand of Fred Guttenberg. Guttenberg is the father of slain teenager Jamie who was gunned down in the Parkland High School shooting in Florida earlier this year. Kavanaugh held no regard for this grieving parent. The newest Justice is a pro-NRA judge. This alone should have been grounds to vote against his confirmation.

More importantly, a woman wouldn’t have been considered for the seat, much less received such deferential treatment.

The Anita Hill controversy comes to mind. In 1991, Hill accused then-nominee Clarence Thomas of “sexual harassment in the workplace.” As we know, Justice Thomas was confirmed.

During Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford accused the nominee of sexual assault and attempted rape.

In the end, Dr. Ford was publicly revictimized. While labeling her a liar, committee member sought to present themselves as sensitive to her suffering. The White House orchestrated a sham of an investigation. It was a thinly-veiled attempt to appease the voters so that the Committee could claim that due diligence had been performed. The FBI was instructed to ignore possible corroborating evidence, and potential witnesses were not called. Dr. Ford nor the nominee were not interviewed despite allegations that both parties had lied under oath.

This undermined the integrity of the process. As a result, Americans now doubt our political institutions.

The Change We Need

It should be painfully obvious the white male majority in power intends to stay there. They will use any means necessary to achieve this purpose—most often at the expense of women. What a sad state of affairs. Women outnumber men in America and wield all the power at the ballot box by their sheer numbers, yet remain under represented in Washington DC.

The Republican Party is predominantly white, predominantly male. The GOP votes to keep those two groups in power. Women should seize control of Washington in one final step towards the realization of their 242 year struggle away from male dominance. Women should become masters of their own destinies and once and for all break free of the idea that they are owned by men.

Sisters need to rise up and take this country away from white men. They can do this by bringing their strength of numbers to the polls on Election Day. They need to do this for themselves and their daughters. They will represent other disenfranchised voters who will never have the opportunity to force a change in this nation without a voice in the political sphere.

In Washington, women are still viewed as chattel.

Women need to take their knee.

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Gene Smith

Gene Smith is a Chief Campaign Strategist living in Arizona. He is a Juris Doctor, and host of the podcast "Hanging With Uncle"

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