John Kasich just can't seem to wrap his mind around the idea that young women are engaged participants in the political process.
During a campaign event on Monday, the GOP presidential candidate took a question from a young woman who asked about social security. "Did somebody tell you to ask this question?," inquired Kasich. "No," she responded. "I think for myself."
ABC political reporter Ben Gittleson, who was at the event, tweeted that Kasich seemed "surprised" at the young woman's question.
One might be able to excuse this instance of Kasich's condescension as a misguided attempt at lightheartedness. But this isn't the first time he has put his foot in his mouth during an interaction with interested, thoughtful political constituents, who also happen to be young and female.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any Taylor Swift concert tickets,” he said when he eventually acknowledged her. Because, obviously, college women only attend political town halls in the hopes that there might be a secret T-Swift ticket giveaway at the end! Oh, Johnny John John.
Solsbak responded by writing a thoughtful essay where she clarified: "I didn’t go to a town hall forum for Taylor Swift tickets, Gov. Kasich. I went because it’s my civic duty to be an informed voter."
Watch a clip of the exchange, here:
Millennial women have been belittled on the political stage time and time again. We've been dismissed as "Beyoncé voters." We've been told to go on Tinder instead of getting out to the polls. One time, a conservative SuperPAC suggested that we're all Obama's girlfriends who all need to break up with him. Charming.
The young women I know on both sides of the political aisle are dynamic, engaged and opinionated. They have a thirst for political knowledge, because the results of elections, both national and local, have real implications on their lives. Young women are facing down crippling levels of college debt. They are seeing their reproductive rights and their access to health care under attack. They are wondering how they will fare in the job market. They are thinking about gun control and climate change and terrorism and racial inequality and the wage gap.
They want to see their ideas -- and their lives -- taken seriously by the politicians who represent them.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that Kasich's opinion of older women is any better. After all, this is the man who bragged that women once "left their kitchens" to elect him and defunded Planned Parenthood in Ohio just this past February.
It should be obvious to politicians that alienating women -- especially young women, who will be voting for years and years to come -- is a pretty short-sighted move. After all, unmarried women are becoming an increasingly powerful political force. And politicians would do well to start paying attention to them. (Read this excerpt from Rebecca Traister's fantastic book All The Single Ladies to learn more about how the changing demographics of our country are dovetailing with louder calls for equal pay, family leave, child care and accessible health care.)
As Traister wrote in October: "Free advice to everyone in presidential politics: If you want young women to vote for you, stop treating them like dumbbells."
If politicians like Kasich continue to ignore that advice, their condescension may catch up with them on election day. In the indominatble words of William Shakespeare: "Though she be but little, she is fierce."