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Is a Barbie World possible?

This opinion was originally published in The Fulcrum.

Virginia Kase Solomón is the CEO of the League of Women Voters and serves on the boards of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the board of directors for the Project on Government Oversight and is a member of the National Election Task Force on Election Crises.

Every August 26, we observe the anniversary of the certification of the 19th Amendment, which granted some women the right to vote in 1920. In 1973, Congress designated August 26 as “Women's Equality Day.” But this year, it feels hard to celebrate when reality tells us we are anything but equal in the United States.

The Supreme Court's decision last June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization eliminated the constitutional right to abortion, ending a woman’s right to make healthcare decisions for herself in many states. Many were shocked, but just as many of us knew our fundamental right to bodily autonomy had been under attack for some time. For the latter, this was no surprise at all. One year later we are seeing the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision, setting progress for women back generations.

In the summer blockbuster movie Barbie, the depiction of Barbie World gives us a glimpse of a democracy where women can lead, unrestricted by bias, prejudice, and discrimination. But the real world of 2023 looks very different. As America Ferrera’s Barbie monologue reminded us, it’s impossible to be a woman.

With the current rollbacks to reproductive freedoms in a post-Dobbs world, we are living in a democracy where today’s women have fewer rights over their own bodies than the women who came before us. But that’s not the full extent of the efforts underway to exclude representation of women and their voices. We’ve seen more anti-voter laws passed in states across the country that could silence voters—especially voters of color--at the election polls in the months ahead. And women are still waiting for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to be added to the Constitution.

The ruling in Dobbs will go down in history as one of the most impactful decisions in our nation’s history, putting abortion policies and reproductive rights in the hands of each state. So, this Women’s Equality Day, I find myself asking, will we ever really be equal? Is the dream of a Barbie world actually attainable?

The fight for women’s equality has always been grounded in the right to vote, providing women voters the right to self-determination and the right to bodily autonomy. Today our democracy is facing some of the biggest challenges in history. Women are under attack. When women have fewer rights and access, we cannot call ourselves equal. We cannot celebrate equality.

This is why the power of women voters is more critical than ever. Women voters, especially young women, possess incredible strength when we unite. In a post-Dobbs world, it is essential to channel our collective energy into organizing and mobilizing for change.

Through the ballot box, we must challenge the patriarchal policies, systems, and structures designed to exclude women. All elected officials, from local representatives to national leaders, need to be held accountable for their positions on women's rights. We must make our voices heard by voting for candidates who champion gender equality and reproductive justice is a crucial step towards ensuring progress—and protection--in a post-Dobbs world.

Throughout history, women have always been at the forefront of our nation’s biggest milestones, even if we are not always remembered in the history books. And today we continue to be a driving force for change, writing new chapters in this continued fight for equality.

Since our nation’s inception, women have moved this country forward through our collective strength and courage, and we can’t stop now. We won’t. The original fight for women’s voting rights took more than seventy years, but women never gave up.

As anti-voting bills and other hostile legislation to women’s rights sweep the nation, we must continue to build our power to ensure our democracy is representative of all people, not just a few. We build our power so we can continue to fight to ensure all voices are heard and everyone is represented in our democracy.

And how do we build that power in a post-Dobbs world and build a Barbie world of empowerment and equality? Here are three tips:

  1. Get Informed: Knowledge is power. Learn about the democratic landscape, policies, and how they impact women's rights. Stay informed about the ongoing legal battles related to women’s rights, including voting and reproductive justice, and take the time to educate others.
  2. Advocate for Change: Speak up and make your voice heard. Engage in discussions about women's rights and gender equality, both online and in-person. Participate in community forums and discussions, (including LWV’s petition to Congress), and utilize social media platforms to raise awareness about critical issues and mobilize your community.
  3. Support Women-Centered Organizations: Contribute your time, skills, or resources to organizations like the League of Women Voters and others, that work tirelessly for women's rights. Also, support local women's shelters, reproductive healthcare providers, and organizations that offer support to women and girls to find their voice and their power.

I said I'd give you three tips, but here's a fourth for free: VOTE. It's never too soon to make sure you have the information you need to participate in the next election. If you aren't 18 yet, encourage your older siblings and friends to register and prepare to cast their vote in EVERY election.

Barbie’s world may seem like a dream but someday it can be a reality. For that to happen, WE must fight for it now. By harnessing our collective power and striving for a Barbie world where empowered women are the norm, we can make a profound impact on our society. Together, let's write the next chapter in the ongoing struggle for gender equality and create a world where all women can live, thrive, and celebrate their rights freely.

Hey, Barbies! Let’s keep up the fight and vote.