by Betty G. Lall
Choices. We are asked: Why is it so important to have more women in politics? To get out and exercise our right to vote; to have our numbers represented not only at the polls, but on the ballot as well!
We as women can choose to get involved, to stand up for the issues we believe in. or to cast our fate to those who may or may not care about our priorities, or who trade them away when it seems “more expedient” to compromise.
Let me tell you a true story. In 1956, when I was appointed Director of Senator Hubert H. Humphrey’s Subcommittee on Disarmament, the “buzz” on the Hill was that perhaps a woman should not have Floor privileges in the Senate and perhaps someone else (not a woman), could be sent in to brief the Senator on Committee matters.
It was also suggested that my salary need not be raised to the level commensurate with male staff directors. After all, I was “only a woman.” And perhaps “it wouldn’t look right” if I were to accompany the Senator and staff on Committee business outside the District.
Those were hard days for women, and, despite many inroads women have made in the political arena and elsewhere, we still have a very long way to go.
Senator Humphrey stood firm in my behalf. Unfortunately, today the Senate is not dominated by Senator Humphreys. In fact, there is a growing conservatism in the Republican controlled Senate which affects not just individual appointments, not just equality and the quality of staff, but a conservatism which has the potential of spreading like a cancer throughout the political world we live in. and dominating our lives and the choices we make about ourselves and our futures.
Choices. Nowhere but in our own Congress can we see so clearly how choices are made each day, on matters which range from “buckling-up” for our own safety, to whether we women have control over our own destinies: over our bodies, our selves; in our jobs; at home.
In Congress, choices also are made about where our hard-earned, taxpayers’ dollars are spent: on education, housing, programs for the elderly and the poor; on health-care and child-care centers, and other programs which provide women with the ability to make choices that they would otherwise be unable to afford.
And in Congress, choices are made about the world we live in. Whether to make peace or war. Whether to continue to build weapons which have the capacity to wipe out humanity many times over. Whether to acknowledge with friend or foe our mutual interests on this planet Earth, and the license we have to use, not destroy it.
Choices. These are choices we make every day, in our homes, in our hearts. These are also choices voted upon by our government comprised of elected officials.
Those officials make choices. And so do we. If we women were to vote our numbers, to choose thoughtfully who we want to represent us in Congress and what issues we hold dear, just think what we could do.
Right now, women make up only four percent of the Congress. Legislation on military intervention in Central America, on nerve gas and the MX missile, on “star wars” spending, on cutting funds for housing, health care, child-care centers, on programs for the elderly, and the poor… All this would change.
Why should women get involved in politics, and why should we vote more women into office at the polls? Because we women make choices. And we choose to make those choices happen.
BETTY G. LALL, is running for Congress in Manhattan’s 15th Congressional District. Help Betty by volunteering, contributing, voting on 9/11. Contact: Citizens for Betty Lall, 853 Broadway, Rm. 1114, NYC 10003. Phone: 505-2350. Betty has Merle’s active support.