The average amount of money women spend on a pair of shoes in America is $26. Consider that $26 combined with the amount of women that have the voting franchise in the U.S.: $50 billion is spent on average by women in this country on shoes. Alone. This statistic formed the basis of a robust discussion on “The State of Women in Politics” by the Harlem4Obama campaign at the Apollo Soundstage in Harlem, New York on Tuesday evening. Present were a mix of community leaders, women activists and political strategists from around Harlem and other parts of the city.

The power-filled panel lead by image activist and writer Michaela Angela Davis, featured political strategist L. Joy Williams of LJW Community Strategies, Tamika Mallory of the National Action Network, WBAI radio host Esther Armah and political strategist Glynda Carr. For the amount of buying power women display, it would be assumed there would be more women candidates in Congress. In addition, women comprise more than two-thirds of the black electorate in America – why isn’t the picture in Congress representative of these factors?

L. Joy Williams states: 

“It’s really disheartening that we would rather support a male who is not qualified 
over a woman who is overqualified and if we’re 64 percent of the black electorate, why 
aren’t we electing each other?” 

Women, it seems, are not committing resources where they should to have a wider scope of representation in Congress. Williams, who is currently also working with a woman candidate running for office, adds that women need to be proactive in this regard: 

“We have the resources, it’s all about how we use our resources in a different way to advocate for what we want politically.” 

With less than five months away from the national polls in November, Harlem4Obama Chief-of-Staff, Kamali Williams, states the importance of such gatherings at this stage:

“This is a long term commitment to moving progressive leadership to the next level. We want to make sure that we have a succession plan and in order to do that, we need to engage progressive women who are professionals across industries and we want to make sure that we’re helping to do that by starting the conversation.”

Raquel Vazquez of New York City Council’s Social Services says she’s going to seek out and build a communal support structure with other women like herself: 

“I’m going to think about how I can build my ‘kitchen cabinet.’ I have my lawyer friend, I have my engineer friend, I have my art friend and we all liaise and bounce ideas and we can build and help each other.”

Panel host Michaela Angela Davis pushes for a call to action:

“I was just talking to [some] women and they said we’ve decided that we’re going to do this at home and in our backyards. We’re going to bring a few people together and we are going to have a conversation and I said ‘That’s it!’ Starting where you are and the rest will show up.” 

Davis, a strong presence on social networking site, Twitter, also notes the importance of using social media for galvanizing women in political circles and for user-generated, positive images of women of color across the web. In keeping with the social media theme, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook recently bought image social networking site Instagram for $1 billion dollars. On the basis of women’s shoe fetish buying power, Zuckerberg could have done this 50 times over. 50 times to get his particular political conversation how he wants it, when he wants it. 

If women in general – and certainly women of color – want representation in Congress, they need to start committing resources to political causes lead by women. Less, perhaps, to shoes.

Tando Ntunja is a South African multimedia journalist and a Masters candidate of NYU Journalism’s Studio 20 (Web Innovation Journalism). Follow her on twitter @tandontunja 

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