There is a good chance you’ve never heard of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) unless you live in New York. If they get 50,000 votes on their line in Tuesday’s election, that may very well change.
Governor Andrew Cuomo started the WEP over the summer, with Christine Quinn at the forefront. In a narrow sense, the movement’s immediate goal is to pass the state’s Women’s Equality Act – something the New York State Legislature has failed to do. (It passed in the Assembly, but was never brought up in the Senate for a vote.) In the broader picture, the movement aims to increase the impact and influence of women in politics.
The WEP needed 15,000 signatures to get on the ballot, and they received over 100,000, according to Ms. Quinn. So, now what? I spoke to her this afternoon, and she explained that if the WEP line receives at least 50,000 votes on Tuesday, the Women’s Equality Party becomes an official third party in New York. It would be the first of its kind in the nation – a political party dedicated primarily to the achievement of equality for women.
Many candidates have pledged to work to pass the Women’s Equality Act, even if they aren’t on the ballot on the WEP line. The Act is based on achieving its 10-point platform, including equal pay for women, strengthening the rights of domestic violence victims, stopping sexual harassment in the workplace and fully protecting the rights ensured by Roe v. Wade.
(***Tutorial Alert*** Skip the next paragraph if you already understand voting in New York…)
I asked Ms. Quinn what it meant to “vote the WEP line,” revealing both my ignorance of that saying’s origins and my having not ever cast a ballot in New York since I left for college. She explained candidates can appear on more than one “party line.” Here is a sample ballot from their website, WomensEqualityParty.org. Notice the party affiliations across the top, and the candidates listed beneath. A voter in New York can vote for Andrew Cuomo, but only on one of the lines in which he appears. He is listed under several party lines – Democrat, Working Families Party and Women’s Equality Party. If enough people vote for him under a particular line (remember, they can only choose one) that sends the message that the voter is electing him on that particular platform, moreso than (though not necessarily opposed to) the others. Consequently, the more votes he receives on the WEP line, the stronger the message to him that the priorities of the WEP are the most important to that voter.
Noting that the majority of WEP candidates were male, I asked her how she felt about that. She responded, “It’s no secret there aren’t enough women in politics.” However, her feelings were, the more the merrier. Ms. Quinn also correctly pointed out that no civil rights movement has succeeded without some kind of allies in and support from the majority. I said, “You gotta have friends,” and she agreed wholeheartedly.
I wondered how she thought the WEP might successfully effect change in ways other parties have not, and she responded, “I don’t like to think in terms of ‘instead of,’ but ‘in addition to.'” In other words, the WEP complements, strengthens and supports the goals of the Democrats and the Working Families Party. She sees WEP as additional political muscle to flex, working in concert with the others to win equality for women.
Slightly off topic, I asked her where she saw marriage equality in the United States five years from now. She answered, saying, “[Marriage equality] is moving at warp speed, and it’s not slowing down. Now we need harder pushes for non-discrimination laws to protect it.” In many states where same-sex marriage is now legal, it is also still legal to fire someone for marrying their same-sex partner.
I asked if the WEP should look to the LGBTQ community’s playbook on how to effect change. She said she hoped they already were. Ms. Quinn noted that “In 2009, New York lost marriage, but we organized like crazy around the 2010 Senate election…[we got] business to send the message that they want equality” for their LGBTQ employees. She said businesses made it clear, “‘we don’t like having [fewer] rights for our employees than other states. It puts us at a competitive disadvantage.’ We need to have businesses send the same message about women’s equality.”
When I asked if she had anything else she’d like to mention about Tuesday’s election, she said, “If you’re in your forties or older, bring your glasses. This is the SMALLEST writing I’ve ever seen on a ballot!” I asked her where on the ballot a voter could find the WEP line, and she responded, “I’m not sure, because just to make things easy, every county in New York has its own ballot, so they all look different.” Oh, New York.
And now, I’m sure you’re all dying to know why Rowlf the Dog is in the title. Well, in the journalism school I never applied to nor attended, they taught us to ask the hard-hitting questions, see? So, I saved the hardest question of them all for the end. Also, I was afraid if it was the first question I asked Christine Quinn, she would hang up on me ten seconds into the interview So, I took a deep breath and went for it.
Me: “If you had to choose a Muppet as a running-mate, which Muppet would you choose?”
Ms. Quinn: (laughing, to her great credit) “My father and I always thought the bear that played the piano was so talented.”
Me:” You mean Fozzy? He told jokes, and he wasn’t very good at it. The piano player was a dog. Rowlf the Dog.”
Ms. Quinn: “Yes, that’s right. It was the dog.”
I asked her why Rowlf was her first choice, and she explained, “He’s multi-talented! I mean, he’s a DOG and he plays the piano! And he started on another show, he has staying power! And he’s a very talented pianist!” I added that he clearly has cross-over appeal, wisdom and who doesn’t like dogs?
With that, she took her leave of me and will probably never grant me an interview again.
Aliza Worthington grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in Baltimore. She began writing in 2009 at the age of 40. Sometimes her writing follows The Seinfeld Model of “no learning, no hugging.” Other times it involves lots of both. She blogs about Life, Liberty and Happiness at “The Worthington Post.” Her work also appears in Purple Clover. She has written for Catonsville Patch, Kveller, and has been featured in the Community Spotlight section of Daily Kos under the username “Horque.” Her writing has also landed in the “Winner’s Circle” on Midlife Collage twice. Her piece for The Broad Side, Leaving Gender at the Door, was chosen as a BlogHer Voice of the Year in 2013. Follow her on Twitter at @AlizaWrites.