Ep. 53: Zephyr Teachout On Why Women Are Made For Politics

"In moments of really difficult decisions- just act. Don't wait until you find the perfect choice. Because yes, it will shape you in some very profound ways. But you can't know the ways it's going to shape you and there's so much value to action, and there's so much cost to inaction."

Law professor and political activist Zephyr Teachout shares her experiences running for office, first for New York Governor in the Democratic Primary and then for Congress in New York's 19th District. Although Super PACs funded by billionaires spent millions to target Zephyr, she describes running for office as the most human thing a person can do. Zephyr explains that politics is about meeting, connecting, and listening to people -- all things that play to women's strengths! Not only does Zephyr think self-governance requires candidates of all kinds, especially women, but she also believes everyone has it in them to run for office. Listen and get inspired to enter politics or to fearlessly take any bold action!

"Men are far more likely to ask about a potential job: 'Do I want this job?' That is the most important question for them. And women are more likely to ask, 'Am I qualified compared to the most qualified person I can imagine?' I think it's really important to shed that question."

We discuss Zephyr's fascinating journey in politics, why it's critical for women and minorities to get involved in politics, the exercise she did before running for office, the role of fear in going public, what demotivates women from running for office, being specifically targeted for her gender by Super PACs, what keeps her going, why women are well-suited for politics, the most common things she hears when talking to young women, not letting criticism get you down, and recognizing the value in imperfect action.

"You don't hear the full range of things that people are dealing with when you have such unrepresentative politics. People ask me a lot about running for office as a woman. I think there's a sense that running for office is not only about appearances but is sort of vaguely dirty and corrupt. We certainly have to get rid of that, because if we leave politics to people who fit the Ken doll image it's not going to work."

What you'll learn:

  • Zephyr is Professor at Fordham Law School.
  • She is also an author, former political candidate and political activist.
  • Zephyr is known for her bold moves- for example, she is currently suing Trump.
  • She recently ran for Congress to be Governor.
  • When preparing for the debates she didn’t focus on what she didn’t know but instead focused on the fact she could do the job better than her opponent.
  • Women are unrepresented in politics and even if they have the title, often men are still making the decisions.
  • There was a sense in the 90’s in the US that democracy had been sorted and all the problems were finished; this allowed inequality to rise while we didn’t have our eyes on the road.
  • Zephyr suffered mostly gendered attacks when running for Governor.
  • Politics is all about meeting with strangers and connecting with people, which are stereotypically female traits.
  • Politics is still seen as a mans' game and when you imagine a politician most people will see a man.
  • During the last campaign Zephyr was the target of 4 super packs that spend $6.7 million on attack ads against her.
  • Robert Mercer spent the most attacking her and this campaign was the second most expensive after his support of Trump.
  • Public financing is a feminist issue – the people who recruit candidates assume men are better fundraisers.
  • Zephyr suffered extreme trolling from the blogging world in 2005, which was awful but prepared her for politics.

Advice:

  • Before you enter public life, write down all the worst things you can imagine people saying about you; this makes them seem less powerful.
  • You don’t need to wait for the perfect moment to take action. 
  • Just act; don’t wait till you’ve found the perfect choice. 
  • Stop comparing yourself to the most qualified person in a job.

Learn more:

  • http://www.zephyrteachoutforcongress.com/
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