Posted by Sarah Welz Geselowitz on January 15, 2016
FairVote’s work is totally new territory for me. As a history major at Swarthmore College, I’ve focused much of my mental energy during the last four years on long-ago times and far-away places. (My most recent research was on hermaphroditism in 18th century Europe!) But as I prepare to graduate in the spring, I’m looking for ways to connect critical thinking and research skills to making positive changes in the world around me--here and now. That’s what drew me to seek an internship at Fairvote: its mission to give people, of all backgrounds, a greater voice in their own government.
As a student of history, I’ve learned to take nothing for granted. Things that seem as basic as the air we breathe--from gender, to family, to conceptions of the body--change throughout time. At FairVote, I am learning to question yet another building block of my life: democracy, in its current form. Growing up in the US, I have taken a number of things as hard political “reality.” I’ve come to accept the fact hat your vote means more if you live in a swing state or district, and that you shouldn’t “waste” your vote on an “un-electable” candidate. But FairVote is shaking up my conception of this “reality” by showing me that there are alternatives. Our democracy, its mechanisms and problems, are not set in stone. Innovations like Ranked-Choice Voting have the potential to transform the political landscape and ensure that every vote counts.
One aspect of FairVote’s work that is not new territory for me is its commitment to empowering women, as both voters and candidates for office. Gender has been both a focus of my studies and a salient aspect of my personal experiences. Like most girls, I grew up learning (unfortunately) that a whole cluster of things did not belong to me: leadership, innovation, technology, science, space travel, and sports. The more I’ve dipped into each of these fields, the more I’ve come to understand the pervasive structural barriers that stand in the way of women. Politics are no different; while female underrepresentation may have its root in patriarchal culture, that culture gives shape to structural barriers that must be broken down. That is why I am excited to contribute to Representation 2020, FairVote’s initiative pushing for fair representation of women in elected office.
My internship at FairVote gives me an opportunity to build on old interests and grapple with new ideas. I’m grateful to be here: as a student extending her education, as a soon-to-be-graduate exploring careers, as a citizen learning about democracy, and as a feminist pursuing gender equality.