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Stop marginalizing young women voters

| Thursday, September 1, 2016

With the upcoming election, Facebook seems to have turned into a never-ending stream of politically charged videos. Everyone likes to think that the latest “You Won’t Believe What the She-devil Clinton Did This Time” or “15 Reasons Why You Are Literal Trash If You Vote For Trump” video will be potent enough to sway the thoughts of their 3,000 Facebook “friends,” or will at least incite conversation. A recent video shared by an old classmate opened my eyes to a particular issue that seems to be pervasive throughout this election cycle. The particular video, titled “Young Women Need to Watch This Before Voting Hillary,” was ironically shared by a 19-year-old male. Without even touching upon political affiliation or personal beliefs, one should notice an issue with a young man sharing a video telling women the same age as him what they need to know before voting in November.

In this video, a woman pleads towards a specific group of young ladies — ones who are not “politically savvy,” but, “just regular young women who don’t obsess over politics.” She orders girls to “put down the Snapchat, put away the flower crowns and listen up.” It took me a minute to realize that the speaker is not even remotely joking. She continues to say that young women are particularly susceptible to being brainwashed into voting for Hillary Clinton by the celebrities they idolize and the hosts of make-up tutorials that, apparently, us women are so prone to watch. The issue with this video is far from political. It would be no different if someone had created a similar video, replacing Clinton with Trump. The problem is that this woman, along with the hosts of dozens of other videos that can be found with a quick Google search, is assuming that the “normal girl” is not interested in politics and is easily swayed by the political stances of their favorite celebrities. The pervasive idea that almost all young women can be blocked together into one mindless, celebrity-addicted category is frankly demeaning, and belittles a whole category of voters.

Professional athletes have also spoken up about their particular allegiances. Basketball’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jason Collins, as well as former Yankee Alex Rodriguez, are on Hillary’s side, while Tom Brady and Nick Mangold have offered support for Trump. It is commonly accepted that many young men watch sports and often idolize the players, yet there aren’t any videos warning them of the dangers of listening to a particular athlete’s political beliefs. Young men are not told that their political opinions are invalid because of their gender.  According to recent polls, one of Clinton’s biggest struggles is support from young female voters and at the last Sanders election rally, many young women stated in interviews that “they would never vote for someone on the basis of gender alone,” yet there exists the perplexing idea that all women are so set on having a female in the Oval Office that they are willing to sacrifice their political ideologies in order to back Clinton.

As far as the idea that the “normal girl” does not put as much interest in politics as she does her make-up routine, one need only look at statistics to see the truth. According to a national university study done by the National Science Foundation, 51 percent of students pursuing a graduate degree in political science are female. Only 36 percent of those eligible to vote between the ages of 18-24 participated in the election of 2012, and of that percentage, 40 percent of eligible women voted compared to the 38 percent male participation rate.  Young women are one of the most active blocks of voters, and yet they are still regarded as a hopelessly illogical group who must be corralled away from mindless voting based on gender or idolatry of celebrities.

What makes the video I watched particularly disappointing is that a young woman makes it — a woman who views herself as special, or particularly different from other females because she has an interest in politics. I will be the first to admit that I do not know exactly where I stand in regards to party platforms, and am still trying to figure out exactly where my political beliefs fall.  This is why this stereotype is particularly harmful — it treats young women who are excited to fully engage in the political process for the first time as if they are no better than mindless children. It makes them question themselves on matters that should be personal opinions.

At the end of the day, enjoying politics and watching makeup videos are not mutually exclusive — it does not take a unique, rare breed of female to understand the intricacies of the election and to make a sound decision when it comes to voting.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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