Time to “Get Out Her Vote”

Students from universities all over Oregon attended the Feminist Leadership Summit last Saturday, February 21 to discuss the national “Get Out Her Vote” campaign and ways to mobilize the population of 18-24-year-olds to vote. Participants came from the University of Oregon, Linfield College, OHSU, Pacific University, University of Portland, Willamette University, the Pacific NW College of Art, Reed, PCC and OSU to join Portland State University students at the event.

In collaboration with PSU’s Women’s Resource Center, duVergne Gaines, the national Get Out Her Vote and national Rock for Choice coordinator, presented the “Get Out Her Vote” campaign Saturday. It is a nationwide drive on college campuses to inspire young women (and men) to register to vote for the 2004 elections. Less than half of the eligible youth population voted in the last presidential election.

“We’re mobilizing each other to get to the poles…so women’s issues do not continue to be the political football of the nation,” said Gaines.

Founded in 1987, The Feminist Majority Foundation is an organization dedicated to “women’s equality, reproductive health, and non-violence.” They focus on “advancing the legal, social, and political equality of women with men, countering the backlash to women’s advancement, and recruiting and training young feminists to advance female leadership for the feminist movement in the United States.”

According to the Feminist Majority Foundation, “elections today are frequently won by tiny margins. The mobilization of the youth vote-especially young women-has the potential to change the political landscape in many states and perhaps the country as a whole.”

Celebrities including Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, Ben Harper, Lisa Loeb and Camryn Manheim have collaborated with the organization to spread the message of the importance of this year’s election, and how your vote has the power to change laws.

“I just feel like our bodies are up on the chopping block,” said Gaines. “We have to do something, and we have to focus on these issues.”

These issues include reproductive rights, civil rights, human rights, global peace and national security, global trade and economic policies, women’s economic equality, and the protection of environmental resources.

“Young women lead the nation in terms of progressiveness,” Gaines said, and added that women are still miserably underrepresented.

Though women comprise 51 percent of the population, they hold only 62 of the 435 seats in the U.S House of Representatives and only 14 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats.

“At the current rate of gain for women in elective office,” according to FMF’s statement, “it will take over 300 years to achieve parity with men in congress.”

The FMF urges young women and men to vote at this years’ elections on November 2nd, and tell their friends to register to vote (if they haven’t already).

“Young people vote when they hear from young people …they need to hear it from you,” said Gaines.

PSU student Lynn Fairweather said she attended the leadership summit because, “you know that bumper sticker ‘if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention?’ I kind of feel like people need to be more outraged.

“They really need to know what’s going on, be aware of what’s happening politically, and if you’re not, then you’re the one that’s going to lose out and future generations are too,” Fairweather continued. “Get off the couch where you’re sitting there ranting at the news and actually get out and do something.” This is what the Feminist Majority provides: a plan of action for students who want to make changes but don’t know where to start.

The coordinators presented the “Campus Voter Registration Drive” to the attendees, a campaign that allows students to “plan and conduct voter registration activities at school.”

Campus organizer Jessie Raeder said, “there’s great power in nation campaigns. Students across the country are working on the same issues at the same time, which raises awareness.”

“We are asking people to educate themselves on issues…we’re not telling people how to vote,” she said.

Michael Lee, a student and fraternal brother at Pacific University attended the summit because, “a large thing that I’ve had a problem with, that I’m basing my senior thesis on, is the racial and gender distinction that society brings to the table. So this [issue] is definitely a large part of this [program] for me.”

Lee was also there on behalf of his fraternity, Gamma Sigma. The feminist alliance at his school approached the fraternity with concerns over their pledging activities. The fraternity decided to work with them and see what they could do to meet the alliances expectations.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of the word feminist,” said Lee, “a lot of the peoples stereotypes of them are that they’re asking for more rights, not necessarily the same rights. There’s a very big distinction between the two, but its blurred all the time.”

“A lot of people think that feminists hate men…I think women and men really need to think about the definition of that word and what their stereotypes are about it and what it really is,” said Fairweather.

According to the Feminist Majority Foundation, who choose to follow the Webster Dictionary definition, a feminist is a person who advocates feminism, which is the policy, practice and advocacy of political, economic and social equality for women.

To achieve that social equality Gaines says, “One of our favorite policies is that if they say no, figure out a way that they’ll say yes.”

For more information on the Feminist Majority Foundation go to www.feminist.org

To find out more about PSU’s Women’s Resource Center and events go to www.ess.pdx.edu/women

Interested in voting info? Go to http://www.sos.state.or.us