A Chat with She Represents Author Caitlin Donohue

By Megan Ciskowski, Assistant Publicist

In a complicated political era when the United States feels divided, women are being elected at record rates and government is beginning to more accurately reflect the people it represents.

She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics . . . and the World will show you what the road to power looks like for women in modern times, and includes politicians in the media spotlight such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Betsy DeVos, and Vice President nominee Kamala Harris. Read these profiles of women in leadership from both sides of the US political spectrum and from around the world to learn about their paths to power, their achievements and missteps, and their lasting legacies.

We reached out to Caitlin and asked her a few questions about how she chose which politicians to include and what she learned while writing this collection.

Why is it important for adolescents to read this book?

I wanted to make sure that this book provided teens with a steady foundation that would help in navigating presidential election craziness. To that end, I really focused on how these women have traversed the road to power. How did their backgrounds help or hinder them, and how did their biographies shape their stance on social and political issues today? One of the most important things about She Represents is that there are political leaders from six continents profiled. Learning about the way governments work, and who runs them, in other countries is crucial to being able to understand why our country functions the way it does.

How were the women politicians profiled in the book chosen?

I want to present a snapshot of the women who are leading the world in 2020, so the vast majority of these political leaders are currently serving and are very influential in one way or another. I believe there are three people profiled who are not currently in office. I felt Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were really important to include because their extremely different effects on our current political climate are undeniable. I also included assassinated Brazilian city councilperson Marielle Franco, whose crusade against the police brutality that wound up killing her, and for LGBTQ representation in Rio de Janeiro politics have, happily, continued to shape social movements in Latin America and beyond, even years after her death.

You are a contributor to the music section of Remezcla and to the news section of High Times. Why were you interested in writing a book on women politicians?

I’ve written about everything under the sun…What excited me about She Represents was the opportunity to see what had inspired these women to seek political office — the human dimension behind the quest for power. During my research, I found that many were motivated to represent their constituencies out of a real concern for their community’s future, and that took me out of the political fatigue that had me down for years and years.

Who is your favorite politician profiled in She Represents?

None of them, all of them. The most important point of this book is that none of the women profiled will save us, and that everyone is working on their issues in their own way in their own corner of the world. I deeply believe that politicians are not to be fangirled. They are imperfect, ambitious human beings who work for us, and that is not to be forgotten. I want my readers to learn about these important figures so that they are better prepared to hold them politically accountable in the future — not to place them on a pedestal, or even necessarily to aspire to be like them.

What did you learn about the nature of women in power?

I think it’s too easy to think that we can know about anyone based on their gender. That being said, there are certain themes that emerge when we’re talking about women who have found success in the political system. One is that they are brave — it still takes real gusto to assert that women’s voices matter when it comes to participating in most political systems. Another is that many felt motivated to run for office not based on the desire for personal glory, but concerns over their family or community.

Another very important, and less heartening, component is that the powers-that-be have begun to realize that voters want to see more women and office, and unfortunately gender has become a talking point to be exploited in some cases. We need to be aware of the ways in which our identities are played against us, and of certain candidates who may not necessarily feel as indebted to their original communities as to the special interests who funded their political careers.

Read an exclusive excerpt of She Represents on Teen Vogue.

More posts by Megan.

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