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For the first time in American history, unmarried women out-number married women – and can vote. In a country that was founded on the presumption that it was built upon married units, the emergence of this powerful new category of citizen perhaps ranks amongst the biggest political story of the century. And it’s no surprise that this game-changing reorganization of American society has not only been missed by most, but it continues to be largely ignored on television.

Young Mothers Voting

The Wall Just Got Ten Feet Shorter—Laurie Agard

Through grotesque inequality in hiring practices, over the past century Hollywood has all but walled-off women in every category behind film and television cameras. One percent of our commercials are directed by women and less than six percent of our films are. The effect of this wall: half of our population’s stories have been silenced and an entire social reordering has gone on without proper discourse. The result? Amongst other things: stunned and angry Americans confused by what they see as a sudden and terrifying onslaught of extremism, lost jobs, and crumbling family values.

Despite corporate media roadblocks, the “revolution” has already happened. The sheer fact of numbers has now become undeniable: well over one-forth of our country’s eligible voting population are unmarried females.

But despite corporate media roadblocks, the “revolution” has already happened. The sheer fact of numbers has now become undeniable: well over one-forth of our country’s eligible voting population are unmarried females. And for the first time in our country’s history this massive female population has spent years of their adult lives as independent individuals, working, using birth control, falling in and out of love and in and out of debt, and living in a space not defined by their husbands. It is a voting group that consists of single moms, college students, professionals, divorced women, widows, and every class, race, and ethnicity.

And the numbers are steadily swelling. Today, more than 56.8 million single women are eligible to vote. And groups like the Women’s Voice Women’s Vote and the Voter Participation Center are working around the clock, aiming to register over 1.5 million new voters from this group this year. According to the latest American Woman Web survey 9 in 10 unmarried women said that they’re “almost certain” they’ll vote for president in 2016. And despite corporate media blanketing the airwaves with $1,898 million in free airtime for white billionaire media mogul Donald Trump, 86% of unmarried women said “they’d be unlikely to vote for a candidate who referred to women as “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs,” “disgusting animals,” or “bimbos,” “even if they generally supported the candidate’s policy position.”

So if they aren’t voting for Donald Trump, who would they vote for and why?

And why are so many American women single?

In her book All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister traces the history of women’s independence. Traister gives credit to feminist pioneers but points out that “today’s women are, for the most part, not abstaining from or delaying marriage to prove a point about equality. They are doing it because they have internalized assumptions that just a half-century ago would have seemed radical: that it’s okay for them not to be married: that they are whole people able to live full professional, economic, social, sexual, and parental lives on their own if they don’t happen to meet a person to whom they want to legally bind themselves.”

In fact, most studies indicate single women want to couple. But because of how our government was formed and the policies that arose from our country’s history, most single women are now opting to stay unmarried longer because they view it as emotionally and economically more beneficial.

In colonial times, the American family functioned as a commonwealth. Marriage and family were central events and although marriages were often arranged because of financial interests, most often wives and husbands thought of themselves a team. It was expected that as time progressed love and affection would develop between teammates, and often they did. Nonetheless, the wife and husband were rarely thought of as equal teammates.

In the big scheme of things, the wife was still considered the husband’s helpmate. White men didn’t brand themselves with the social stigmas of “welfare kings” or “security dads” but they were largely dependent on a huge subsidy: their wives, which traditionally took care of health, children, and elders. And they did create government policies that alienated women and people of color, while protecting their own enfranchisement with tax incentives, business loans, and exclusive voting rights.

As society industrialized and labor markets became more specialized many of the practices of previous generations have disappeared. These changes have dramatically affected today’s American family and many of the alterations needed to ensure family solidarity while incorporating changes driven by the labor market have not been implemented. Women often don’t have the same kind of helpmate that men in this country do, and as a result they have been exposed to numerous vulnerabilities.

In fact, over 18 million women, one in seven, live in poverty in the United States.

Statistics released by the National Women’s Law Center indicate white single women who work full time earn 75 cents to the white male one dollar. Latina women fare the worst, being paid 55 cents on the male dollar. On average unmarried women make 61 cents for every man’s dollar. Two-thirds of minimum wage makers are women and 48.7 percent are unmarried women. But the wage gap occurs at all education and pay levels. In fact, the wage gap gets worse as women’s careers progress.

At the start of their careers, most single women of today’s millennial generation are now more educated than their male counterparts. American women now receive more than 57 percent of all bachelor’s, 59 percent of master’s, and 52 percent of doctoral degrees. And Millenials have watched what has happened to the Gen-X and Babyboomer females before them: pay inequities increased and support decreased as they married and had children.

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This has meant women have been unable to save for retirement at the same rate as men. Women have been less able to buy houses. And women have fallen farther behind their same-aged male counterparts in their careers when starting a family. A recent Pew Research survey indicates that mothers are three times as likely as fathers to say that being a working parent has made it hard for them to advance in their careers.

When American women come home from paid work, many routinely start a second job: childcare and housework.

When American women come home from paid work, many routinely start a second job: childcare and housework. Statistics show that very few families in the United States divide these unpaid endeavors equally. Regardless of employment outside the home, mothers in the United States still do most of the emotional work, socialization, discipline, transporting, hands-on care, and planning of appointments. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s research found that married American women with children work an extra 15 hours per week compared to men. And single mothers work even longer hours outside the home than married mothers do.

Despite all of this work, according to the USDA (2015) over 34 percent of single-parent households in the United States feel food insecure, and more than 80 percent of these homes are headed by single mothers.
More than one-third of single moms spend more than half their income on rent, which according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (2014) is considered the threshold for “severe housing cost burden.”

Nationally, the annual cost of center-based infant care averaged over 40 percent of the state median income for a single mother. Because of childcare costs, about 30 percent of American children between the ages of 12 and 14 take care of themselves on a regular basis after school, and four percent of children in the United States ages five to 11 do the same.

Today, 17.4 million American children are being raised without a father, and over 45 percent of these children live below the poverty line.

In the words of feminist hero, Susan B. Anthony, “There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.”

So with single women in the driver’s seat for the first time in our country’s Presidential election, where are they heading?

In 2012 single women, running the gamut of race, age, class and education, voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 67 to 31 percent. And in 2016 this uniquely diverse and unified voting bloc, have planted their hands firmly on the wheel and are continuing to drive not merely toward Hillary Clinton, the first woman within real striking distance of the highest glass ceiling in the land, but they are steering the entire Democratic platform farther to the left, forcing the party to reshape its political policies and address all of the issues that affect their constituency’s economic well-being, issues that were in the previous decade considered too risky for politicians to demand: paid family leave, lowered college tuition, affordable health care, pay equity, abortion, birth control, sex education, higher minimum wages, campaign reforms, criminal justice reforms, affordable and smaller environmentally-friendly housing, and voting rights and legalization of immigrants.

When compared to Trump, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders receives less than 23 times the news coverage yet dominates the single-woman vote with whopping clarity. Though he is a candidate speaking directly to many of this voting bloc’s needs, this revolution is not Bernie’s alone – and it’s not a sudden lurch to the left. It has been rolling formidably like a wave toward this time in history for more than Sanders’ 74-years of age.

This country was structured from the beginning to privilege white men with money, built on a system that restricted voter access and equality so that it could not be easily dismantled and overturned. But that’s precisely what is beginning to happen now. And it’s not uncommon for women to go uncredited, to be relegated to an invisible force, obstructed from the stories told by media, even when they are so forceful they are about to forge a new social contract with the most powerful country in the world. We have always been here, struggling and determined to flourish in the face of daunting opposition, chipping away at the wall our country’s dominant power structures have built around us.

And as our numbers have finally reached a critical mass, as Rebecca Traister writes, the time has come to “make room for free women, and let go of the economic and social systems built upon the presumption that no woman really counts unless she is married.”

On Tuesday the 8th of November 2016, if single women all head to the polls, not only will they be the force that stops Donald Trump, they will choose the Presidency, alter the news cycles, and determine the fate of numerous candidates and policies well into our country’s future.

laurie-agard

Look out America: the wall is coming down.

See you at the polls!

Laurie Agard