Cross-posted at Ms. JD.
I was going to throw up. The first day’s reading for my Gender Violence, Law and Social Justice course involved graphic articles about the rape in Steubenville, Ohio. As I was reading about the horror inflicted on a sixteen-year old girl, my body reacted physiologically. I felt sick, but also angry. In light of such an obvious attack on women, why can’t Congress reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act?
Partisan divide explains some of Congress’ incapacity to act (though it still confuses me why women’s safety isn’t a concern of both parties). The dearth of women in Congress also contributes to legislative inaction on women’s issues. That’s why I’m so excited for EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock to speak at the 7th Annual Harvard Women’s Law Association (WLA) Conferenceon February 8, 2013. EMILY’s List encouraged, endorsed, and ensured that women won seats in the House and Senate as well as in state executive and legislative positions.
I’m also excited to hear from Michelle Wu, who graduated from Harvard Law School last year and is now running for an at-large seat in the Boston City Council. Ms. Wu will be speaking on the “Tips from the Trail: Gender in Political Campaigns” panel at the WLA Conference. It is inspiring to witness women running for office. As an Asian-American woman, it is especially meaningful for me to see Ms. Wu contend for a spot in government.
Thanks to EMILY’s List, when women run, they can win. Women such as Elizabeth Warren and Claire McCaskill have proven to be formidable candidates. The 2012 election was a watershed moment for women in government. For the first time in American history, women now constitute 19 percent of Congress. More women than ever have access to the floor of Congress (if only access to the bathroom could keep up!). When women command the floor, they can share their perspective. They can shift the national dialogue around women’s issues. They can argue to reauthorize VAWA.
I dream that our Congress will one day pass legislation even more protective of women’s rights than VAWA. This will only happen if that 19 percent grows. And how will that happen? You should run.
Annie Lee is a second-year student at Harvard Law School.