As our 2016 classes begin to graduate, we want to share and celebrate with you, our supporters! The following speech was given by Emerge Maine executive director and alumna (Class of 2009) Jill Barkley at their graduation reception on March 12, 2016:
This current election year has given a lot of attention to the role of women and sexism in politics. That’s right, I said sexism in politics. That’s because it still exists, and we know that, whether it is very subtle or very overt.
At Emerge Maine, we don’t HAVE the answer for how to address or eliminate sexism in politics. We ARE the answer.
When you’re a woman and you chose to run for office, some people will not like you for reasons they just can’t put their finger on. Someone will talk about your outfit, your hair, your makeup – or lack thereof – your weight, your voice, and your laugh. Someone will suggest you should not shout or express anger, be too happy, or cry when you are sad. Someone will criticize your relentless ambition, your unwillingness to wait your turn, your desire to do whatever it takes to win. Someone will ask about what your campaign OR service is doing to your children – or why you don’t have children in the first place.
When you are finally elected to office, you will still have to carve out space among your incredible male colleagues for your seat at the table, your opinions, and your pathway to leadership.
Emerge Maine does not have a solution to solving any of that. We ARE the solution to making it less lonely.
We are the voice on the other end of the phone when you need to scream OR cry. We are the encouragement in a comment on Facebook when you share something outstanding OR outrageous. We are the text message asking if you need anything, the call for volunteers for your campaign to our alumnae network, and the blast email highlighting your candidacy. We are the endless advice for how to handle any situation, and, once you’ve survived it, the reassurance that you, my sister, KICKED SOME ASS.
We are the woman looking you in the eyes saying me too at the end of a long day, and the sisters standing by your side when you don’t think you have enough strength to stand on your own.
That’s what we do, that is who we are.
Until the game changes for women in politics, we’ve assembled an unbeatable team. Tonight, these 21 women join us.
These women, 9 of them hailing from the 2nd Congressional District, are nothing short of incredible. 8 of them are already running for office – joining our previous graduates to account for 27 Emerge Maine women on the ballot this year!
6 for the Maine State House, including 2 in our very first Emerge Maine primary! 1 is running for Oxford County’s Probate Judge, and 1 is running for Portland’s Board of Education. 4 more are the campaign managers for State Senate races.
All of them will run campaigns, run for office, and someday be part of running our state!
We could not be more proud of their accomplishments.