3 things I've learned about politics as a woman running for office
I'm the woman (and mom and healthcare professional with a doctorate) running for political office in the 7th District of the Ohio House of Representatives. Last month, my political opponent made some "Hey, sweetie" comments, and my response went viral.
To be blunt, I'm still the underdog — it's Mommy versus a political goliath. He's got experience, connections and money — lots and lots of money. And I have my friends, my family and a drive to connect with citizens and make a difference.
Going into this, I was closer to Kimmy Schmidt than Olivia Pope. I thought my local Republican Party would embrace a young, educated, family-oriented woman. (They haven't.) I never really thought my being a woman would become an issue. I was hoping it would be more about the issues I cared about, such as school funding and mental-health awareness.
I thought I would be judged on what I would be able to bring to the table. I didn't think that being a mom, having a husband who is supportive and, oh yeah, completely capable as a parent would be the bigger issue.
I can't help but wonder, Why is this still an issue in 2016? Why is it anyone's decision that my husband and I decided he could handle the kids a few days a week?
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I suppose. Even if it's severely outdated.
I've learned three lessons from my foray into politics so far.
1. It's about the rules
With almost anything we do, there are rules. Sometimes the rules are posted, other times not so much. It's sort of like motherhood: It doesn't matter what anyone tells you, you just have to experience it yourself. You learn as you go. But also as with motherhood, in politics you can make your own path. Just do it the best way you know how.
2. You really do need a thick skin
Most of the comments I've received have been positive. And if I can inspire other moms to get involved in their communities? Mission accomplished. But people aren't always going to like and think the best of you. You need to learn to move on, no matter what. Don't let a few bad apples ruin your experience or the message you want to send.
Again, the motherhood analogy seems to work well. People may say you are doing it wrong. For example, if you didn't sing to your baby while they were in the womb, your child won't be Einstein. You know, haters gonna hate. Let them. At the end of the day, if you can answer to yourself and feel comfortable, all is good.
3. You need to stay true to your heart
Sort of like the 98 Degrees anthem in Mulan. (Yes, OK, I liked boy bands, and yes, I have seen every Disney movie ever and can fake-sing every single song.) Anyone who knows me knows I am honest — I call it like I see it. Trust and honesty are rocks in my personal foundation. Being in the spotlight isn't going to change that.
Politics is essentially a public office, so of course everything is public. I am not about to change who I am to do this. You either like who I am and what I stand for or you don't. I'm not the stereotypical politician. I'm not a lawyer. I don't lobby corporations to contribute to my campaign. But I know I can make a difference.
I hope that people from every gender and political party can look at my story to help us improve how our society treats women, moms and female politicians. One day, politics won't be an arena in which the working class is afraid to engage. The only way that happens, though, is for one of us to start it.
In some time, hopefully I won't need to remind you who I am. You'll just know.