Sandra Fluke was among seven women on stage at New York City’s 92nd Street Y last night on a panel moderated by Chelsea Clinton. The event, called “Running in Heels: Where are the Women Candidates for 2012 and How Can We Get More Of Them?” led to a lot of talk about how women hold themselves back in the political arena, but Sandra Fluke broke rant to make an important point: That women also face a lack of support from public policies when it comes to success in politics—including challenges to contraceptive access. certain structural barriers that shouldn’t be discounted, and as much as women need to encourage each other to step up to leadership positions, we also need public policies to help us get there…like contraceptive access.
Fluke spoke alongside Nicolle Wallace, Abby Huntsman Livingston, Stephanie Shriock, Amy Holmes and Christine C. Quinn—all women who are familiar with what it’s like to push for positions in politics. Many of the women agreed that getting more women in office requires women to stop holding themselves back—with fears of ambition and criticism, or a lack of confidence in taking leadership positions. Which is a fair point (and as many panelists pointed out, is also rooted in numerous studies asserting that women are far more reluctant to take the reins than men with the same qualifications), but Fluke pointed out that we’re up against a lot more than our own meek personalities:
I agree with what everyone’s been saying about [...] women’s own choices and that we sometimes hold ourselves back and each other back [...] But I do think we need to acknowledge that there are structural barriers for women to running for office and to holding office [...] We have to think about how our public policies create these barriers for women. So let’s have more support for child care that allows women to be able to have careers. Access to contraception might not be an issue for priveleged women, but for women who are in low-income jobs who—we want them to be involved in the public dialogue as well—being able to control their reproduction is important to them being able to do that. I think we have to not just be stereotypical women and blame ourselves and say “yes, we should be better,” but we also have to say “and these policies should be better for us, so that we can be part of it.”
Fluke’s point isn’t just important for women who want to go into politics; it’s important for women to be successful in all areas in life—for many, birth control access isn’t a matter of rearranging a budget, but it makes the difference between their ability to control their choices about family, career, and participation in public life.
To watch more of the discussion (which is well worth your time, if you have it), check out the video below:
For more about the panel discussion, which was the first of 92nd Street Y’s Campaign for the American Conversation talks promoting civic and civil dialogue, visit 92YAmericanCoversation.org.