This Grassroots Organization Empowers Female Candidates to Run For Local Elections
How the activists behind "Putting Women In Their Place" are leveling the political playing field for women and educating voters.
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I played two years of Little League football, three years of football in high school, and three years of rugby in college," Jasmine Ayres, a Democrat running for one of three at-large seats on the city council in Columbus, Ohio, says in a campaign video. "When I say I'm going to fight for you," she continues, with a smile and a nod, "I mean it."
Ayres is one of the first candidates to take advantage of an offer from a new network of media professionals aiming to help get progressive women elected to local and regional office. The group, cheekily named Putting Women In Their Place (PWITP), is comprised of videographers and other digitally savvy folks across the country who've signed up to help create free promotional videos for women who've aligned themselves with a set of progressive values established by founder Megan Park.
Park, a filmmaker who owns a production company in Cincinnati, told VICE Impact the idea came to her not long after the 2016 presidential election. She said she was "physically sick and bewildered" at the results and the rhetoric that had come out during the campaign, and found herself determined to do something more than simply make phone calls to her lawmakers.
"Politics are local—we're all taught that, but we don't act on it because it's so hard to get to know the people in our local areas."
"Politics are local—we're all taught that," she said. "But we don't act on it because it's so hard to get to know the people in our local areas. How many times have you had the experience when you walk into the voting booth, and there are all these names down the ballot and you have no idea who those people are and no idea what that job entails? I just decided it was important to give voice to these small elections."
As the organization's name suggests, Park is specifically trying to give voice to women in these local elections. "We're 51 percent of the population," she said, "and less than 23 percent of all elected officials."
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The problem of just how vastly underrepresented women are in politics is huge. Anne Moses, the founder of Ignite, an organization working to help young women become political leaders, told Broadly last year that the US would need to get 140,000 more women into office to achieve political gender parity.
Helping candidates reach more voters through high-quality video makes sense because "it's so pervasive," Park said. "Anybody can get their message out, good and bad."
"How many times have you had the experience when you walk into the voting booth, and there are all these names down the ballot and you have no idea who those people are and no idea what that job entails?"
Otherwise, she continued, candidates who can't afford to do this kind of advertising have to rely on mailers or newspaper articles to get their message out there. Video is so much more powerful and impactful, she said. "That's why I have [candidates] stare straight into the camera because you get to look them in the eye. I think that just says so much about a person, about their passion, about their interests, about their goals. That almost is more important than whether they're registered Democrat or Republican."
The application process to be approved to work with PWITP is pretty simple: A candidate—regardless of their party affiliation—must agree to a set of seven questions (including "Do you believe a woman has the right to choose an abortion in accord with the principles of Roe v. Wade? and "Do you believe in the separation of church and state?") in order to qualify to be paired with a videographer. So far, the group has only released promotional content featuring candidates running for office in Ohio, but more in other states are in the works, Park said.
Ultimately, Park said, she hopes amplifying local politics will eventually impact things on the national level. "I'm hoping the women who get into office in 2017, the next time there's another election cycle, they'll be ready to move up to the next place," she said. "Maybe they start on the school board and they move to city council, and then from city council maybe they move to state representative. So, it's going to take time, but I see it over the course of a few cycles, the old guard, they're getting older, they're moving on, and we'll have these progressive women in place to move up."
You can volunteer as a videographer or learn more about the organization.
If you want to have a voice in how your community is run make sure if you vote in your local elections. if you're not alreadyregistered to vote, there's not time like the present to get started.