Shyanne Taylor works as an office manager for a physical therapy clinic in Wimauma, a little more than 30 minutes out from Tampa. She is 24 and lives with her two cats, Beans and Lily.
A few years ago, she says, she couldn’t tell you the difference between a Democrat or Republican. Now she’s getting more involved in local and national politics during one of the most tense presidential races in memory.
“I feel like I’ve picked a hell of a time to get political,” Taylor said in a conversation with the Phoenix.
Many Floridians see the Nov. 3 general election as a pivotal point in U.S. history. And as the clock counts down to November, women voters may play a central role in the outcome.
The Phoenix reached out to Democrats and Republicans to gauge the atmosphere in advance of the the general election, seeking insights about how gender perspectives might play out. The Republicans did not want to speak publicly, although one thought Trump would be better on the economy.
On the hunt for the women’s vote
Although some swing-states are leaning Democratic, Florida remains a battleground, with President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden neck-and-neck in public opinion polls.
In a tweet in mid-August, President Trump recognized his dependence on what he called the “suburban housewife” to spell electoral victory, saying:
“The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me. They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge!”
He misspelled the name of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who proposed housing reform while he campaigned for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He ended his race and endorsed Joe Biden.
Trump posted the tweet one day after Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate.
The president’s tweet was widely criticized as an outdated racist dog-whistle, invoking the image of a white 1950s housewife in fear of poor non-white folk encroaching on her suburban community.
What’s worse for Trump, women nationally favor Joe Biden over him, according to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News.
That survey suggests female voters expect that Biden would better handle problems including racial tensions, health care, and the COVID-19 response than the Trump administration.
However, it’s not smooth sailing for Biden on all issues. When asked about their expectations of crime levels under a Biden presidency, 28 percent of women thought that it would be worse, 29 percent said it would be better, and 39 percent said crime levels would be about the same.
As for men, 35 percent expected crime to be worse under a Biden presidency and only 20 percent expect crime rates to fall.
“Broken down, Biden crushed the president among urban women (69 percent to 27 percent) but held a much narrower advantage among suburban women (54 percent to 41 percent),” the Post reported.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, women have had a slightly larger voter turnout since the mid 1980s.
The study also found that women are more likely to vote Democratic and men are more likely to vote Republican.
“Party affiliation, like voter turnout, differs significantly by race and ethnicity. Within each racial and ethnic group, however, there is a gender gap in partisan identification; in each case, women are more likely than men to identify as Democrats,” the report says.
But for Florida, specifically, most polls say it’s too close to call.
Women vote more and have more to lose
In Florida’s capital, Krystof Kage is a senior web developer for the City of Tallahassee. When he goes into the voting booth, he’ll be voting for the benefit of other people because “men don’t really have problems,” he told the Phoenix.
His wife, Rachael Kage, works for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He said they largely share political leanings and reactions to the political climate.
“We both were in tears when we found out RGB passed away,” Kage said, referring to the sudden passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsberg is a icon for many, as she laid the way for landmark cases and fought for gender equality.
Now, in her absence, many are frightened about the fate of Roe v. Wade and access to abortion.
“We both reacted to what [her death] meant for women” Kage said. “We both felt that sudden pang.”
Trump recently announced that he’s nominating Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsberg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, causing a stir among voters who fear that a conservative Supreme Court will chip away at a women’s right to abortion.
The Phoenix earlier reported that although Barrett doesn’t think the right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade would go away completely, some states may restrict access to the procedure.
Access to health care is important to many Floridians, including Shyanne Taylor, the young woman from Central Florida. She considers it her responsibility to be politically engaged and to vote in the interests of women.
“There is the entire women’s health and reproductive health issues going on with abortion and Planned Parenthood,” she said. “I think we are personally responsible for making our environment more ethical and more safe for everybody,” she said.
And she is frustrated by the number of men making decision about women’s health.
“It’s maddening to think that they have so much control over our bodies and what we can and cannot do with them,” Taylor said. “Being someone with my body, and the innards that I have — I feel like I have a better voice for people with my innards than people who don’t have the same innards as me.”
She also spoke about a time a gynecologist denied her access to an IUD because she lacked a long-term monogamous partner.
When Bernie Sanders, who was her preferred candidate, ended his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, she decided she had to prioritize.
“I would love for student loans to be forgiven for everybody and not have to pay the amount that I have in debt but health care is the most important thing right now,” Taylor said. “Especially with COVID — like, there are people literally dying at this very moment.”
Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, agrees that COVID-19 has highlighted the pitfalls of the U.S. health care system, and the League plans to include it on the list of concerns they will bring to the next Florida legislative session.
“The League of Women Voters has men in the League — we’ve had men in the League since the ‘ 70s — but yes, we are primarily made up of women. So it’s primarily women who want to send these legislative priorities on to be addressed,” Brigham said.
Taylor feels similarly. Although she feels it is her responsibility to vote on behalf of women and reproductive health, she is more focused on how to best improve the lives of all Floridians and Americans.
“I want to vote for what’s going to make our country the most ethical and most progressive and the safest for people of all backgrounds,” Taylor said.
For many, the general election is not just about who will be president and state and local lawmakers, but what priorities get a hearing and who gets to decide them.
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, one reference to Amy Coney Barrett misspelled her name.