On April 17, two girls came to testify with their mothers, encouraging the legislature to not cut funding to their school system during the State budgeting process. As usual when kids testify, everyone paid attention, laughed at their jokes and clapped when the testimony was finished (which usually garners a quick pounding of the gavel by the chair since clapping is frowned upon in the Ohio Legislature). These girls were wise beyond their years, had a lot more guts than I had at that age, and clearly stated their argument for the committee. Frankly their testimony was better than a lot of testimony I hear in that building.
So, what lesson did those girls learn that day? Did they learn that their hard work would make a difference? Did they learn that their voices could educate legislators about issues important to them? Did they learn that by being brave and smart their actions would be respected? Well yes, most of the members of the legislature congratulated them on how smart they were. Members of both parties encouraged them to run for office, and to keep speaking out.
But then the feel good moment quickly came to a screeching halt when, for each girl, one legislator taught them a lesson that all of us wish these girls never had to learn. That we live in a sexist world where their value is judged, not on how smart or brave they are, but on who is willing to date and/or marry them. Because if you are smart, brave, and strong, the best thing that could ever happen is that a boy would want to marry you right? You can see it for yourself in the video.
These girls learned an unfortunate, but important lesson that day. If they want to be taken seriously, not only do they have to be smart, brave, and strong, but they also have to fight back against ridiculous sexist actions that are meant to hold them back. But, based on how rockstar both of these girls were, I have a feeling that neither of them will have problems with that! I have a feeling this isn’t the last time we hear from them.
As I walked into the Finance Hearing room for yet another long day waiting to deliver my three minutes of testimony, I had no idea how frustrated and angry I was about to become. My days in the Ohio Statehouse as a lobbyist for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio are often frustrating, but that was its own special kind of day.
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