Social Media: Empowering Women, Changing the Political Dialogue

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Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting pieces from our Founding Mission List Members. Every day, these women are using their influence to shape their communities and create positive change at home and abroad. The below post is from Ally Priest. Over the last couple of months, politicians in Congress have focused their efforts on attacking women. They have not focused on creating jobs, which they promised to do in their campaign speeches, but decided to focus on women’s health instead. Seeing this attack on women, whether it be by trying to deny contraception to women or even trying to defund Planned Parenthood, has made me more motivated to get involved. These are issues that affect me and the choices that I will make later on in my life and other women across the nation. Women need to have more a voice in the decisions that are being made about their own bodies. Women’s rights are issues that I will be taking up passionately this year, but also for the rest of my life. There are some people who believe that women have gone too far in pushing for their rights and have tried to turn the clock back to the 1950’s, but as we have seen over the last couple of months, the backlash from women over these attacks have led women to be more vocal about their opinions and push for more progress -- not regression.  It has been exactly twenty years from the first “Year of the Woman,” and I plan on helping to make 2012 the new “Year of the Woman.”

Social media enables us to make change happen without having to go through institutions. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has been used as a tool by non-profit groups that deal with women’s rights to change the dialogue in this country, and fight off attacks. In February, the country saw the first in this barrage of attacks on women’s health. The Susan G. Komen Foundation decided to cancel its contracts with Planned Parenthood. The Komen Foundation was never seen as a politically motivated group, but their decision set off a major backlash from women around the country. Women across the country used Facebook and Twitter as ways to express their disappointment and show their solidarity and support for Planned Parenthood, which provides mammograms to thousands of low-income women. The Komen Foundation saw a flood of tweets and Facebook posts from women – and men -- expressing their discontent with the decision, which ultimately led the Komen Foundation to reverse its decision on Planned Parenthood. One person’s tweet may not seem like a lot, but when there are hundreds of thousands of tweets expressing the same emotion over a decision, we can make a huge impact. Using social media, we can affect real change.

Until the upcoming elections, I plan on doing everything I can to help promote women who are campaigning to lead our country and defend our rights in Washington. To end this War on Women, the country needs to have more women involved in the decision-making process, especially when it comes to issues of women’s health. Who else knows a woman’s body better than a woman? Social media allows women to spread the message quickly and effectively; we need to capitalize on this tool in order to push for more progress and fight off the attacks on our rights, but also promote other women who have the chance to change the dialogue in the country. In 2012, women need to achieve more to change what is going on in Washington, DC and around the country. The attacks on women need to stop, and this is the year that will change everything.

Ally Priest is a Junior at the University of New Hampshire studying Political Science. She is currently the President of the New Hampshire College Democrats. Ally has just completed a semester studying and interning in Washington, D.C. with Senator Jeanne Shaheen through The Washington Center.

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