Anjali Mehrotra

Power and political representation matter. On Tuesday, New Jersey will seat its 220th State Legislature. There will be many new faces, four in the Senate Chamber and sixteen in the Assembly. And there will be historic firsts such as the first AAPI women (Haider, Jaffer, Park) and the first Muslims (Haider, Jaffer) to serve in either chamber. We will also welcome a openly gay member once again to the chamber after having none since Mayor Reed Gusciora found himself redistricted out almost a decade ago.

But some things still won’t change. Women remain woefully under-represented in our legislature. In 2014, after making strides, New Jersey ranked 9th among the states for legislative seats held by women. Since then, while other states have made significant gains, progress in New Jersey has stalled, and it will now rank at 18th (which IS up from 25th) after gaining five additional women in the Assembly, but losing one in the Senate.

The 2020 census underscores the fact that the diversity of our great state is not reflected in its halls of power. Yes, we need to elect more women, but we also need elected men to fight for our cause. Intersectionality shows us that in every group and community that finds itself marginalized, its women bear a greater burden. If the goal is equality and equity, not just for women, but also, for our trans brothers and sisters and non-binary folk, we need all representatives to forward a ‘feminist agenda.’ An agenda that seeks not only reproductive and gender justice  but also racial and social justice.

New Jersey  prides itself on being a forward thinking state and there have been significant pieces of legislation passed in recent years. Yet rarely are we on the cutting edge of legislation, we are usually following examples set by other states. New Jersey can and should be a leader in solving critical issues faced by women, children and families in the state. We can and must do better! 

Anjali Mehrotra is a fierce feminist and activist. She is President of the National Organization for Women of New Jersey and was a candidate for Assembly in the 2021 cycle. Anjali believes in speaking her mind even if her voice shakes!!

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