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Miriam Feffer's picture

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Turned to your favorite news source lately?   You’ve surely noticed that as another election season gathers steam, the so-called “civil” servants jockeying to represent us spend their time trying to pummel each other with barbs and bile.  The conversation never seems to turn to vital issues like the safety of the air we breathe or the unregulated chemicals toxifying our bodies. 

Meanwhile, there are something like 80,000 chemicals pervading our atmosphere, food, toys, and clothing, the majority of which have never been tested for safety.  In fact, there has been no federal legislation passed to control toxic substances since the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976.  As someone who shares that legislation’s birthdate, let me state it in plain terms:  if TSCA were a woman, she’d be counseled to go for a baseline mammogram and warned by her OB/GYN that she’s officially considered of “advanced maternal age!”

I’ll admit that I’m prone to pitching the occasional tantrum – hey, my two-year-old needs a role model! -- when I consider the quality of our polity, the kookiness of the candidates, and the message it all sends to our kids.  But then, on a typical workday, I head to my office and join a team actually trying to do something about it. 

I’m fortunate to work at Rachel’s Network, an extraordinary nonprofit network of women funders across the U.S. who share a commitment to the environment and come together to exchange ideas, develop their leadership, and maximize their influence.  Last year, we joined forces with The 2012 Project, a nonpartisan campaign to recruit women in underrepresented fields to run for Congressional and state office in the 2012 elections.  With Congressional redistricting afoot, there are unprecedented opportunities for new candidates to enter the political pipeline.  What’s more, with the prevailing government-is-yucky mood, the odds have never been better for a fresh face to win the race.

Rachel’s Network is reaching out to women environmental advocates like you, issuing a call to consider running in 2012.  (Do it!)  Earlier this year, we released an original study that revealed that over the past ten years, women in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, regardless of party, voted in support of the environment at rates that far outpaced those of their male counterparts.  We can only conclude that one way to redirect lawmakers’ focus to the environment is to place more women at the decision-making table.

Does this mean all women are biologically programmed to be staunch defenders of the planet?  Obviously not – there are plenty of female politicians with ideological positions, shall we say, inimical to our cause.  However, women still make most of the purchasing decisions that affect our families’ health and safety, and women like you have already taken steps to create a more just society, or you wouldn’t be running with the MomsRising crowd in the first place.

That’s why we’re approaching communities like this one to invite women like you to consider running for office.  (Do it!)  Overwhelmed by the thought of adding yet another commitment to the daily grind of work, carpool, dinner, basic personal hygiene, and making a convincing case that Play-Doh “needs to sleep in the kitchen?”  We’ll connect you with women who’ve been in your shoes and can offer tips on how they made it work. 

Not sure your experience qualifies you for the job?  Woman, please.  For starters:

  1. You clearly care about your community’s health and welfare.
  2. If you want to serve your community, there’s no better platform than public office for advancing the issues that matter most to you, whether that means banning BPA, making quality health care available, or funding early education for all kids.  
  3. Seriously, can you picture a man looking himself in the mirror and saying, “I dunno…I’m not a lawyer…all I have is an advanced degree, 20 years of work experience, deep roots in my community, and a commitment to creating a better world”??

So ask yourself:  Why not you?  Why not now?  And do it!

With the 2012 elections now a year away, we need names.  If you – or a woman you know – might be interested in running for office but haven’t taken the first step, let us know by contacting me.  Our office will connect you with the vast network of training resources assembled by The 2012 Project and help you secure the support and guidance you need.  Sign up your sister, your boss, your aunt, your best friend, your neighbor, or yourself.

If you’re waiting for an invitation to run, this is it:  please run.  (Do it!)  Your commitment to healthy families and communities qualifies you to serve.  Your fresh perspective could influence the direction of important policies for years to come.  When you next reflect on how disappointed you are in the leaders you see in the news, and you find yourself using language you don’t want your kids to repeat in public, don’t get mad – get elected!


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