Michelle Williams recently won a Golden Globe in the category of best performance by an actress in a limited series or television movie. In her acceptance speech, Williams chose to hail the power of women as voters, asking them to vote in self-interest. Considering the state that we find ourselves in today, Williams’ plea should resonate with every one of us. How many of us cast our votes, keeping in mind what is good for us, and not based on parameters like the political preference of patriarchs in our household, or what is good for “everyone”? Is this the reason why our elected leaders and their policies do not often reflect what we as women want and need?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Actor Michelle Williams has won a Golden Globe for her performance in the miniseries Fosse/Verdon.
  • In her acceptance speech, Williams urged women to vote in self-interest.
  • Patriarchy conditions women to put themselves and their needs last. This attitude seeps into our voting pattern too.
  • Is that the reason why politics reflects so little of women’s opinions and necessities?

How many women cast their vote, keeping in mind what is good for us, and not based on other parameters like the political preference of patriarchs in our household, or what is good for “everyone”?

Williams, who won an award for her performance in the American biographical miniseries Fosse/Verdon, said, “I’m grateful for the acknowledgment of the choices I’ve made and also grateful to have lived at a moment in our society where choice exists because as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice. I’ve tried my very best to live a life of my own making and not just a series of events that happened to me, but one that I could stand back and look at and recognize my handwriting all over it – sometimes messy and scrawling, sometimes careful and precise, but one that I have carved with my own hand.”

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Williams also said that she wouldn’t have been able to do this without “employing a woman’s right to choose”. Said she, “To choose when to have my children and with whom. When I felt supported and able to balance our lives, knowing as all mothers know that the scales must and will tilt towards our children,” further adding, “But thank God, or whoever you pray to, that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours. So women, 18 to 118, when it is time to vote, please do so in your own self interest. It’s what men have been doing for years”.

Williams needs to be applauded for taking such a firm pro-choice stand, on a platform such big as the Golden Globes. The rise in almost hostile anti-abortion policies in the US has left many women without a say in matters of pregnancy and motherhood. But Williams also puts focus on the power that we have and yet we do not choose to use it much for our individual benefit: our right to vote.

Across societies in this world, choice, in any context, remains a luxury for women. Especially in patriarchal societies like ours, women are made to internalise the absence of choice for them as a norm. Sacrificing their happiness for others, letting men in their life make decisions for them is touted to be a part of their gendered role. An ideal mother or an ideal wife puts the needs of her family before her own. This mindset has also plagued the way we vote, where we would rather listen to voices around us than those within.

Men and women in our society lead very different lives. Stereotyping and bias put the two genders on two separate paths in life. The only gender that gets its way in life is the one that unabashedly prioritises its necessities.

Many women still cast their vote based on the preference of their husbands or patriarchs in their household. While women’s issues do find their way to party manifestos and election speeches, how many of them actually stem from genuine concern for women rather than projecting a certain image in front of the electorate? Unless we have more women leaders or leaders who actually empathise with women’s issues and intend to usher in a wave of change, will things ever change?

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The approach to women-centric issues will change only when women not only step out to vote but vote based on their rational and necessities. In doing so our perspective towards political leaders and parties, and what they have to offer will undergo a radical change. This, in turn, will affect the choices we make while casting our vote. So women, you need to listen to Williams. Stop waiting to be championed by parties and leaders. Instead, work from the grassroots to the top to ensure leadership that you approve of. The first step to that is to vote, and to vote as per your self-interest.

Picture Credit: WikiCommons/ Gage Skidmore

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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