Awareness, Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 11/3/2010

Teenage Girls: Uninterested in Politics?

hellz yeah.

hellz yeah.

In the past few weeks leading up to election day, I’ve found it impossible to turn on the T.V. and not find myself face to face with an incredibly unflattering photo of a political candidate, with a voice over telling me how evil this person I’ve never heard of before is, and if I elect them (not that I can vote, but whatever), an angel will lose it’s wings/a million puppies will die/every kid in America will find out Santa doesn’t exist. Especially when I’ve had a really crappy day and all I want to do is sing along to Glee, these commercials seem to really be enough to make anybody want to tune out of the political sphere altogether. And apparently, that’s exactly what teenage girls across the country are doing.

After the 2008 elections, America seemed reinvigorated by politics again. “Yes We Can!” we cheered. Heck, even those who didn’t vote for Obama felt pretty proud of the political vigor and achievements our country displayed for most of 2008 (Um, whuddup Hillary?!). And this was reflected in the 2008 enrollment numbers of Running Start an organization that through specialized programming gets teen girls involved in politics. In 2008, Running Start received 30,000 applications for 50 spaces in its 2009 program; Running Start’s 2010 program, on the other hand, received a paltry 1,000 applications. What’s more, a recent Harvard Survey (October 2010) revealed that only 27% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 said they’d definitely vote in midterm elections (with even less young women saying they would when the numbers were broken down by gender).

These findings are disturbing for many reasons, but the one that strikes me the most is the disinterest amongst teen girls despite the prevalence of women in the 2010 Midterm Elections. In this past election cycle, 298 women filed to run for Congress, more than half won their primaries, and yesterday 153 women appeared on ballots nationwide in general election for US congressional races. How can teenage girls face what at first seems like a political triumph for American women and feel ambivalence? Meagan Carberry of Rock The Vote agrees with me on the commercial front, stating, “The partisan bickering has definitely gotten to young voters,” plus, she said, younger voters just aren’t targeted enough.

But what’s the solution to this troubling new trend? Some say that we need to actively try to involve girls in politics much earlier, considering that of the last 19 presidents, 12 began their political career before they were 35. And the facts remain that currently women compose only 17% of Congress and 23% of State Legislatures – clearly, no where near equality.

So my question to you is this: why are you – or let’s be honest – why aren’t you as a teenage girl (or boy) interested in politics? Do you see this as problematic? What do you think should be done to involve more girls in politics? Should we just screw it all and switch on over to anarchy?

Here’s some further reading on recent political current events involving women (BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT TO BE INFORMED. IT REALLY IS):

The White House Project (another organization for women in politics, especially young girls) and my interview with Marie C. Wilson, its founder/President.

Election 2010: Scorecard for Women Candidates – Rutgers

Five Myths About Female Candidates – Feministing

Brazil President and Gender Equality – BBC

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  • Zoe @ at 1:32 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    I’m 22 and I didn’t vote yesterday because I got lazy about getting my absentee ballot and I missed the deadline. Seeing as how Pennsylvania became a red state overnight, I’m mad at myself.

    The bickering of political ads is a turn off to ANYONE, much less just young voters. It’s terrible.

    I think young voters get turned off from voting, especially mid term elections, because they don’t know who’s running, what they stand for, etc. It can be a real hassle trying to find a good unbiased source of information that can lay out all the candidates, side by side, to make a good judgment.

    Maybe if Rock the Vote and other youth-oriented voting groups could advertise more on TV, between all the bickering ads?

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 2:34 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    Oh I was caught up in the Obamamania back in 2008, I was 19 at the time.

    I think a lot of what has happened is that Obama failed to deliver on the change he promised and the youth gave the powers that be a big “FU2″, (the *other* “F” word).

    It’s the same in Britain, politics is all about what’s best for the traditional old white guy, so if you are not an old white guy, it’s best to focus on something else.

    IDK how to fix it other than to establish the death panels that the teabaggers are so afraid of.

    Hmm you are an old white hillbilly, (a/k/a useless) no expensive medical treatment for you!

    They die off, and now we(everyone who isn’t an traditional old white guy) have a chance of getting our candidates elected and the corresponding legislation that benefits us passed.

  • Seth @ at 4:18 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    I am white and male and am curious as to the orgins of your sexism and racism.

    Can you explain what laws you believe should be passed for your race and gender Alex?

  • Seth @ at 4:22 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    @ Alex

    Your advocation for gendercide and extermination of the male gender is alarming to me. Can you also explain how your belief in reducing the population of males will solve issues of particular interest to you and your people?

  • A @ at 8:22 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    I know that as an informed teen girl, having to listen to the ill-informed stances of my classmates infuriates me. They often only know of the stuff about politicians proclaimed by angry opponents or on the covers of tabloids. Many just agree to whatever their parents’s beliefs are and just don’t care either way.

  • Katherine C. @ at 10:28 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    I’m 17 (and a proud bleeding heart liberal/socialist) and I am VERY interested in politics. I campaigned for Obama in 2008, but I couldn’t this year because it’s SENIOR YEAR and I have almost literally NO free time. :( I have to say that I feel no sympathy for Americans, ESPECIALLY teenagers, who don’t vote. My response to them: IT JUST AIN’T THAT HARD. I mean, we have Google, for crying out loud. Take an hour of your time and educate yourself on the issues and which candidates relate to what issues. Then take another hour off to go vote. It probably won’t even take all your time. If you really, really can’t vote on voting day, get an absentee ballot. This is really important, and it’s unacceptable that we have such a low number of voting citizens in this country,

    @Alex Catgirl: Wow. Not funny. I would guess that you didn’t really mean what you said, but this kind of crap is what fuels all the stupid little he-said she-said party politics, not to mention stereotypes. Especially if you’re going to post it anywhere online, do liberals (of which I suspect you are one) a favor and think before you type.

  • Steph @ at 10:44 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    I’m actually majoring in political science at university, and my plan is to end up working for DFAIT in ottawa (department of foreign affairs & international trade, for non-canucks). Oh, and I’m 17.
    So there is hope!

  • Lothar @ at 11:41 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    @Zoe: No, I want to see more negative ads, especially after Election Day where the losing candidate screams at the voters telling them what idiots they are and how they can all go to hell. Then they would flip the bird and hold it defiantly at the camera for 15-20 seconds while angrily gritting and gnashing their teeth.

    Until the Dems grow a pair, play dirty and push for their principles without apology, why would anyone be enthusiastic about supporting them? “It could be worse” and “We’re marginally better than the other side” are not rallying cries. “Medicare for all” and “Save the earth” are. Accusing the Republicans of being Stalinists with unsubstantiated charges wouldn’t hurt either.

  • Layla @ at 12:55 am, November 4th, 2010

    Santa isn’t real?! Woman, you lie!

    But seriously though, I’m shocked at how little political knowledge most of my peers have. I usually find myself contributing to most discussions about current politics, and *gasp* providing actual facts and statistics that no one would bother to remember!
    The only politically-minded teens you would see are in the Young Democrats and Young Republicans clubs.
    The only other people I see who know a thing or two about what going on today are viewers of the Colbert Report or the Daily Show. (But then they end up making fun of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi for being assertive women – durr hurr).

  • Nano (Nyxie) @ at 3:07 am, November 4th, 2010

    I am interested in politics. My dad only voted for Senator and Governor himself – the rest of his ballot was all my opinion. When we went to turn the ballot into the people with the counting machine, the lady at the desk gave us both an “I Voted” sticker. I really *don’t* understand how people can be so disinterested in politics, to be honest.

    *totally plans to be President one day*

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 9:59 am, November 4th, 2010

    @Steph – I suggest you google genocide as you are not using the word correctly.

    There is no right to very expensive healthcare, like most things of value, it’s a scarce resource which must be allocated intelligently or nations go broke.

    It’s one of the best concrete examples of white male privilege I have ever seen. Here is a group of very mediocre people who have contributed absolutely nothing to the world/society other than producing a bunch of ill begotten crotch droppings in a feeble attempt to give their laughable existences meaning..oh and to ensure their survival of their oh-so-precious “line”(sic) to in their worker drone hamster habit communities that I consider beneath me to take a dump in DEMANDING the best that life has to offer.

    Excuse me, but what exactly have those dullards done to justify the incredible societal cost, that the rest of us will be paying for?

    To which they reply But but we are white males! The bedrock of society! Defenders of the tribe…We suffered!…In short they are nothing, a bunch of mediocre nobodies that should of left behind to wallow in their cesspools of their own making long before I was born.

    Such is the situation in the western world, which is not different than the Islamic world they are constantly provoking – where you have a bunch of mediocre traditional brown men demanding the best life has to offer simply because they are devout Muslims who were promised x, y, and z by some 5the century patriarch.

    In either case, reality just doesn’t work that way.

  • Katherine C. @ at 11:45 am, November 4th, 2010

    @Alex Catgirl: Hate is not a progressive solution. People are not considered to be “worth” intrinsically more or less than others based on what they’ve done with their lives. Why? Because it’s subjective, unfair, and cuts both ways. How would you respond if you read this on the board: “How dare these poor Black women who drone away at meanigless labor demand expensive healthcare! Here is a group of very mediocre people who have contributed absolutely nothing to the world/society other than producing a bunch of ill begotten crotch droppings in a feeble attempt to give their laughable existences meaning. I consider their worker drone hamster habit communities beneath me even to take a dump in. Excuse me, but what exactly have those dullards done to justify the incredible societal cost, that the rest of us will be paying for?”

    In this country, we are supposedly created equal, no matter our profession or socioecomomic class. Yes, white and male privilage is a problem. And no, the mythical “death panel” in not the solution. From what I’ve seen of you on this board, you are intelligent and passionate. Please don’t let that degenerate into hate. It’s beneath you.

  • Tanamarie @ at 1:08 pm, November 4th, 2010

    Talk about a loaded question! And when did those pollsters stop beating their wives and children?

  • Ypulse Essentials: Taylor Swift Goes Platinum, Can Facebook Predict Election Results?, Twitter-Bot Takes On Climate Change Critics | Ypulse @ at 3:49 pm, November 4th, 2010

    [...] Teenage girls and politics (Are they really that uninterested — and if so, why? asks one teen blogger, noting that only [...]

  • Teen Voices @ at 4:52 pm, November 4th, 2010

    We agree, it is important for young (and soon-to-be) voters to stay informed. You bring up so many great questions Julie. Our teen Editors found themselves asking these same questions, which inspired their upcoming article on women in politic. The feature includes an interview with the president of EMILY’s List, which is a network of progressive Americans who are committed to electing pro-choice Democratic women into political offices.

    We hope the young women of today will find out what their political styles and passions are. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions, ladies! Voting is just one of the ways we can let our voices be heard.

  • Amanda Aziz @ at 8:52 pm, November 4th, 2010

    It’s such a shame to see the ladies of Gen Y’s interest in politics is declining.
    It doesn’t help that Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell, or even Helena Guergis (I’m from Canada, so it’s a juggle between two political systems) are creating this notion to the media that women can’t be leaders. Our generation is in need of a female role model like Arianna Huffington, yet, it’s so sad that none of my friends know who she is.

    As a whole, The majority of my high school “friends” political status on their facebook profile is “I don’t care”, and you know what, I’d totally agree with them; I mean, who cares about one’s healthcare, public school education funding, or even down to one’s rights and freedoms? Clothes and boys are more important (sarcasm noted). :(

  • Steph @ at 3:35 am, November 5th, 2010

    @Alex Catgirl: I realize you meant Seth, but you still gave me a start there. ;P

  • Heather @ at 5:57 am, November 5th, 2010

    I became interested in politics when I realized I wanted to be a feminist, then I realized how impotant it was to vote, especially as a woman.

  • Seth @ at 11:59 pm, November 5th, 2010

    Is there anyway women will ever be able to be independent and self supporting like they promised they could?

    When will women and their children be able to be independent from male dependency. Will the matriarchal family ever be able to survive on its own? Without a man supporting the matriarchal family it would surly perish. When will feminism/communism be fully implemented so we can be equals?

  • marta1 @ at 12:43 pm, November 8th, 2010

    I would say that I’m very political and the recent national elections in Britain made me even more passionate.

    In my experience, young people are MORE enthusiastic about politics than older people, perhaps because older people tend to be more dissilusioned with party politics etc. As my dad says (mainly just to annoy me) ‘whoever you vote for, you’ll still get a politician’ >:(
    This may just be my experience, as I go to a school with a quite liberal, well-educated intake, which isn’t really representative of society as a whole, but I know that last election there was a record high student turnout.

    I also think that a lot of the recent cuts in Britain will affect young people (eg increase in university tuition fees) and this can encourage people to get involved. Unfortunately I can’t vote yet (I’m 15) but next election I won’t fail to be at the ballot box!

  • firefly @ at 11:08 pm, November 19th, 2010

    @Seth: Communism is not feminism, y/y?

    Women can’t survive without men, but neither can the other way around. A
    matriarchal society would function quite differently, of course, but not necessarily worse.

  • ??? ????? @ at 3:47 pm, December 9th, 2010

    Octavia Butler will blow your mind. Start with the Kindred trilogy.

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