Let's Be Greedy When It Comes To Our Rights
In politics, millennial women should assert their needs above all else — after all, that is what democracy is all about.
Welcome to Refinery29's weeklong exploration of women and greed in an era of enormous wealth inequality. Where does need end and greed begin? Read on.
Women spend a lot of daily energy trying not to take up too much space, keeping their complaints to themselves, and attempting not to rock the boat. If that weren’t bad enough, millennial women have the added criticism of being part of the generation blamed for the country’s laundry list of economic, social, and cultural pitfalls — this includes everything from the unpredictable side effects of the gig economy to the downfall of fabric softener.
We all know that millennials have been dubbed the most entitled generation in history; we get called selfish and self-centered — particularly when it comes to issues around identity. And when women in particular ask for policies around equal pay and/or better treatment on par with their male peers (you know, like not being groped by a sitting Senator) we get slammed for not “taking one for the team.”
If you think about it, there’s another catchall word that captures all these critiques: greed. Because if greed is defined as “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed” (as Merriam-Webster puts it), and the things that women want are not considered necessary by the mostly-men in power, you can see how all the criticism might saddle women with the label “greedy.” In actuality, this term — and others like it — are designed to keep women down; conditioning from day one for women has been to give, not take, even if it’s for your own self-preservation.
Of course, millennial women aren’t to blame for the current state of the country. They didn’t vote for tax cuts, almost pass a heinous healthcare bill, confirm one of the most conservative judges on the Supreme Court bench, or refuse to pass meaningful legislation in light of the uptick in gun violence and mass shootings around the nation. In reality, we got here in large part because lots of old white men enacted policies and looked the other way. This is greed in its most literal sense, the use of power and influence to wield more personal power and wealth—and almost always at the expense of the most marginalized groups in society. Greed is then-representative Tom Price buying stocks in a company and then introducing legislation to benefit that company. It’s Republican congressperson after Republican congressperson putting National Rifle Association money above the lives of Americans. Even worse, these same politicians have the audacity to label their greed in terms like “freedom” and “family values.”
So, why is it suddenly “greedy” (or gasp — unladylike) when millennial women say what they want? It’s simple: They’re a threat to the way our political system has functioned since the country’s founding. The label allows the people currently in office attempt to police and neutralize that threat.
In spite of the setbacks, I propose that my fellow liberal millennial women embrace their “greed.” After all, what is democracy if not various groups asserting their needs? If greed means actually making the world a better place, then maybe it’s a good thing: Our supposedly “selfish” desire to move politics in our direction can actually lead to change for millions of people in underrepresented groups, not take away even more from them.
There’s really no other option: We need to be greedy or our rights will continue to be decimated.
Just how much can millennial women do if they harness their power? First and foremost, they can be the ones that get more women into office. Donald Trump’s election has led to an unprecedented wave of women running to get elected — and a record number of women believing in those candidates’ power. Almost two-thirds of women ages 18 to 44 — which encompasses the entire millennial generation and some members of Generations X and Z — believe that electing more women to office would change the country for the better.
And it appears they’re right: More women in office makes things better not just for women, but for everybody. One study found that congresswomen bring home 9% more funding from federal discretionary programs to their districts than their male counterparts, money that can go directly to helping all constituents. Analysis of the past decade of congressional bills showed that female lawmakers got 2.31 of their bills enacted; their male peers got only 1.57 passed into law, which is a big deal if you look at the fact that we’ve been living in an era of one wildly unproductive Congress after another (and another and another). If that wasn’t enough, early research also suggests a correlation between countries with more elected female leaders and lower levels of corruption.
And for those who argue that getting “any Democratic person” into office regardless of gender is more important, feast your eyes on this: Research discovered that liberal congresswomen sponsored or cosponsored an average of 10.6 bills related to women’s health and well-being, compared to just 5.3 bills sponsored or cosponsored by liberal congressmen. Democratic representative Robin Kelly has introduced legislation to lower the dire rate of maternal deaths. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has led the way on proposing bills to reform the way military sexual assault cases are handled. Democratic representative Jackie Speier has been championing laws that fight against revenge porn for years. Why wouldn’t women elect people who don’t just have a higher likelihood of looking out for their best interests but also a higher rate of actual advocacy?
Moreover, liberal millennial women have a unique opportunity to debunk the idea that “women’s issues” are somehow niche compared to other issues. Women are one of the demographics most affected by subpar law-making when it doesn’t have to be that way, and it’s okay for them to demand more for themselves. Additionally, policy areas generally associated with women — childcare, abortion, pay equity, and more — have a ripple effect on the rest of the country, especially its most underserved populations.
As we head into the midterm elections in just three short months, everybody’s asking the same question: Will liberal millennial women harness all the rage and power they’ve been gaining in the past several years and make change at the polls?
There’s really no other option: We need to be greedy or our rights will continue to be decimated. We need to unabashedly support women candidates we believe in and not shy away at the suggestion that we’re just supporting them because they’re women. (If anything, hell yeah we should!) We need to show up in our local communities and let our voices be heard, to the point where our leaders can’t ignore us any longer. And this fall, we need to show up at the ballot boxes and put all the naysayers to rest.
The bottom line is, sure, it seems greedy to focus on your special interests and self-preservation. But there’s nothing greedy about creating a world where you strive to receive the same opportunities and experiences as your white, male counterparts. And if we aren’t “greedy,” the old white guys in office aren’t going to stop their actual greed. It’s up to us to destroy and rebuild the system.