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Finally, Some Good News About Women and Politics

When women run for office, the world is a better place.

By Caitlin Abber

4 years ago this week, we sent you, our customers, this letter. Regardless of political affiliation, so many (including us) were surprised by the results of the presidential election, and we wanted to open the lines of communication among women and hear what we, as a clothing company, could do to support you. We received over 1,100 responses to that  letter within the first 24 hours, and so many of you said the same thing: regardless of party, you wanted to see more women in office. 

We took this to heart, and thought about how we could use our superpowers as a clothing brand to help. In February 2020, we launched our Ready to Run campaign, where we offered to lend M.M. clothes to women running for office. We never purport that clothes help move the needle on female representation, but we wanted to do our part to make things a tiny bit easier. As one candidate said, “Wearing your clothes gave me one less thing to worry about and the ability to focus on delivering my message.”

The campaign went viral, and we were featured by The Washington Post, Elle, the Guardian, and several other major outlets (even Hillary Clinton tweeted about us!) Over 1,000 women applied, and we successfully lent our clothes to over 275 women who ran for a variety of positions, from City Council to State Coroner (!) to Congress. 

 Jen Gibson, a Ready to Run candidate who ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Some exciting news: a remarkable 183 of the 275 Ready to Run candidates made it past the primaries and saw their names on the ballots on November 3rd. And, as of Saturday, November 7th, 95 have won (27 are still waiting for results). That’s 34% of all the women who participated in Ready to Run.

On Instagram, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared our campaign and wrote, “As a candidate, a large part of asking people to vote for you is helping them visualize you on the job. As a member [of Congress], that professionalism helps you challenge unconscious bias.” We know that clothes do make a difference, and it felt amazing knowing that we were doing what we could to increase the number of women representatives in every aspect of government. 

The candidates we lent clothes to were able to choose from a variety of styles, but the most popular styles were bold color dresses, like the Jillian in dahlia and the Hayley in cerulean, and headshot-ready tops, like the Lise in Klein blue and the Giulia in primrose. “I have loved the capsule wardrobe I built for myself with M.M.LaFleur,” said Jen Gibson, a Ready to Run candidate who ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives and wore the Jillian dress in her campaign photos. “I wore M.M. for most of my commercials and the photoshoot. I just felt great in the clothes.

Alexandria Knox (R), who ran for the New Hampshire House of Representatives while wearing the Carson blazer she borrowed through Ready to Run, hopes the number of women running this year inspires more women to run in the future. “I hope that it inspires young women considering running that they can also be a part of our amazing democracy. Women in politics are unstoppable.”

Kim Jackson, a Ready to Run candidate who ran for the Georgia State Senate. 

Kim Jackson, who borrowed the Ruth dress through Ready to Run, became the first known LGBTQ woman elected to Georgia’s state senate. “I knew I wanted to run when I was 13 years old. I went to a city council meeting in my home state and saw the first Black mayor who’d ever been elected in that town. Seeing a person of color in a position of power in a majority white city let me know that that was possible. At 13, I knew that the ‘what’ of my life was that I was called to make change in the world.”

Beyond our campaign, Republican women in particular saw major wins this year and could have as many as 33 members of the House GOP by the start of next year. This is part of a larger trend of women on both sides of the aisle running for office—and winning. Women like New Mexico’s Yvette Herrell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, who will be the first Native American Republican woman in Congress. And Sarah McBride of Delaware, who will be the first openly transgender woman to serve as a state senator. Of course, there’s also Cori Bush, Missouri’s first Black congresswoman. And one of our favorite stories, Charmaine McGuffey, who was just elected the new sheriff of Hamilton County, Ohio, after she ran against her boss, who she alleges fired her for being a lesbian. 

It’s long past time that women gain equal representation in government, but to do that, they have to feel empowered to run. “In my home state of South Carolina, women make up more than 50% of the population, yet less than 16% of our elected officials are women,” said Jen Gibson. “We can’t vote for a woman unless her name is on the ballot, and I am proud of the unprecedented number of women who put their names on the ballot in 2020. When women run, we broaden the conversations about public policy, and that makes our communities stronger.”

“When women run, we broaden the conversations about public policy, and that makes our communities stronger.”

That’s part of why Emily Weber (D), the newly elected Missouri State Representative—and the first Asian-American woman elected to the Missouri House—decided it was her time to run. “In the back of my head, I always thought that I could never run for office, because I don’t have a law degree or I’m not in the medical field. And that’s when I started realizing that we need more people like me—people who have had the experiences of being self-employed, of working for small mom-and-pop shops. I’ve gone through phases in my life where I didn’t have healthcare, or I had to live paycheck to paycheck. And I’m still a renter. I don’t own my house. So I realized that my story and my life experiences would have more of a voice as an elected official.

On top of supporting candidates themselves, we’ve made it our mission to support all women, regardless of party, involved in the democratic process. Because, as Jennifer Volpe Douglas (D), a candidate for Rhode Island State Senate, said, that’s what women do—we show up for each other. “It’s not just the women who are running who need to be acknowledged. It’s our support systems of other women who help us juggle our responsibilities along with campaigning. I’ve had women knocking on doors and making phone calls for me. Women picking up my children from school when I’m in meetings. And women who have addressed thousands of envelopes to send letters to my community.”

Emily Weber, a Ready to Run candidate who ran for the Missouri House of Representatives.

 

What we found so inspiring this year was the diversity of women running and each of their unique stories. It didn’t matter how young or old they were, the color of their skin, whether they had tons of money or just enough to get by—when they decided they wanted to run, it was the right time to do it. 

“We are the next generation of leaders. So if an opportunity comes, take it. Let it change your life.”

“I’m actually doing this like 20 years earlier than I thought I would,” said Kim Jackson. “[I originally thought,] ‘After I’ve worked for a long time, and maybe in my 50s, I’ll run for office.’ But I had people in my life who said to me, ‘Why are you waiting?’ And I think that was just a really good question that I couldn’t answer.”

Trisha La Chica (D), a Ready to Run candidate who ran for the Hawaii House of Representatives, echoes that sentiment. “I believe women need to stop waiting for the right time to get into politics and to not let their age, gender, or skin color stop them from running for office. Because we are the next generation of leaders. So if an opportunity comes, take it. Let it change your life.

Caitlin Abber

Written By

Caitlin Abber

Caitlin Abber is the Brand Editor at M.M. LaFleur, and an award-winning writer and content creator. Over the last decade she has held senior editorial positions at MTV, Women's Health, Public Radio International, and Bustle, and has bylines at InStyle and OprahMag.com.

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