Category Archives: Interviews

A Long Road for Women in Politics: How 25-Year-Old Kinn Badger is Paving the Way

By Sabrina Schnurr

“You’re saying no because you’re bitchy.”

Most high school students spend their weekends sleeping in, catching up on homework or spending time with friends. Kinn Badger, however, spent her weekends in Illinois and Georgia knocking on doors and walking in parades with senators.

After graduating from American University, Badger immediately hopped onto the campaign for Jon Ossoff for Congress; her efforts in the special election hoped to disrupt the long-safe Republican seat in Georgia’s 6th District. Although Ossoff was later defeated in a runoff election, the campaign broke national fundraising records for a U.S. House candidate (according to the New York Times), and it was the closest a Democrat had come to winning the 6th District since 1992.

Despite the loss, Badger drove 600 miles from Georgia to New Jersey to work on Vin Gopal’s 2017 campaign for New Jersey Senate. Months later, Gopal became the first Indian American to be elected to the New Jersey Senate, and his victory was described by NJ.com as “perhaps the biggest upset of the night.”

Badger, 25 and also Indian American, now serves as the executive director of the Monmouth County Democrats, where she is responsible for organizing all Democrat candidates and fundraising across the county’s 53 municipalities, 4th and 6th Congressional Districts, and four districts in the New Jersey Legislature.

Below is a segment of my interview with Badger, in which we discussed being a woman in politics and other issues she’s interested in pursuing.

Sabrina Schnurr: Do you think being a young woman has affected your experience in this position?

Kinn Badger: 100 percent. Definitely. I mean, people are sexist. Even within the Democratic Party. You feel it anywhere.

SS: How has that [sexism] been manifested?

KB: A lot of that is because there has only been male executive directors for a very long time. There was one woman over 10 or 15 years ago. Obviously ,the way I look has impacted me greatly. I’ve been called an intern, or told that I have no experience because I’m not from New Jersey.  Maybe people are intimidated? I mean, that’s a baseline of why I think someone would say those things to me. I’ve been called many names on the job—names that I know men would not be called. It’s because a lot of times I tell them no, and the easiest way for them to deal with that is to say “Oh, you’re saying no because you’re bitchy.” Bitchy is the classic one I get. Or when I say something, they respond, “Why is your attitude like that?” And my attitude is fine. I don’t know what they’re referring to. Sometimes, they call me aggressive—oh, that’s a classic! “You’re so aggressive.” No, I’m being assertive.

SS: How do you deal with getting called names?

KB: Well, it depends on the situation. Sometimes I’ll say something back. But most of the time—I hate that I have to say this—I just let it go. It makes my job a whole lot easier when I don’t have these hiccups. And it sucks because as a young woman—and a young minority, democratic female—a lot of the times I’m like, “This just makes my job 10 times harder.” Because it’s not going to go away. We’ve normalized this in the workforce no matter what career you’re in. It’s unfortunate.

SS: What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t working in politics?

KB: That’s a tough question for me because this is my life, and it’s been my life for a very, very long time. I know this is probably a cop-out answer, but I would probably be more into advocacy work. I think politics and advocacy work well together, they go hand in hand. So that’s why I said it was kind of a cop-out answer. I’ve always had an interest in Planned Parenthood, being a young woman. And especially with the change of climate right now regarding women’s reproductive rights, I think that’s a huge initiative that I would like to be a part of. It’s a part of my current career, but I don’t get to spend as much time on it as I’d like.

SS: There’s a Planned Parenthood at the end of our campus in Boston, and there are protests out there that people have to walk through on their way to class, and it’s not something you generally expect in Boston.

KB: Boston is a little more progressive than most areas. I’ve seen it, too, though. I’ve volunteered as one of those people that help bring other people into Planned Parenthood through the protests a couple of times before. It’s really hard because Planned Parenthood has so many services besides abortion services, and most of the time women are coming for other services, but are judged for the former.

SS: What do your family and friends think of your job? I can assume your family’s very supportive because it’s been your life, but what do your friends think?

KB: It’s really weird because a lot of my friends are in politics. So of course, they’re really supportive. My friends who are not into politics or who have been my childhood friends for so long, they’re just like, “Well, this is you. This is just what you love to do.” They say, “When I think of Kinn, I think of her trying to elect all these Democrats. That’s just what she’s always done her whole life.” My friends have always been super supportive. Since 2016, I think my friends have changed in the sense that I don’t interact with the ones that I don’t align with politically. I think this has happened because of my job and because it’s hard to argue with them when this is what I do for a living. And they’re like, “Well, but that’s just not true.” And I’m like, “But I do this for a living, and here are the facts to prove it.” And they’re like, “See, you’re so into MSNBC and CNN.” And I’m like, “Oh my goodness, that’s not what this is at all.” Right? I’ve definitely shifted towards having friends that align with me politically, maybe because of convenience or maybe it’s because I know I’m going to be supported by them.

SS: Do you plan on running for office in the future?

KB: If I ran for office, I would want to run within my community. The Board of Ed[ucation] is something I’ve been looking into. I would not run for any sort of higher office because I work with candidates every single day, and I always say staffers make the worst candidates because you know everything that’s happening behind the scenes. You’re worried and focusing on all these things that are supposed to be happening behind the scenes when your main concern should be talking to voters and going door-knocking or making phone calls. So I would make a terrible candidate because I focus on all these other things, like how much money is in our bank account, or what’s the theme of our next direct mail, or what’s the opposition doing and all this other stuff rather than focusing on just trying to talk to my constituents. So I really, really like being behind the scenes.

We need more people supporting candidates and people running for office becoming staffers. It really isn’t for everyone. I also say that I cuss way too much to be an elected official, but I really do like supporting people. Being an elected official is hard. You’re constantly “on” all the time. I see this a lot, especially with [New Jersey Senator] Vin [Gopal]. He is just “on” everywhere he goes, whether it’s just a quick bite to eat with his wife and someone spots him or just walking outside and constantly being “on.” That’s so exhausting, and I know for myself, I just couldn’t do that. I love people, but sometimes I’m also like, “All right, I’m done for the day.”

Badger has no plans to run for office herself. Staffers make the worst candidates, she says, because they focus too much on logistics when their main focus should be talking to voters.

“I also cuss way too much to be an elected official,” Badger said.

Over the past 18 months, she has learned to embrace the responsibilities of a job she once found intimidating.

“I don’t think I’m a person who needs to have a gold star every time, but it’s the little things, such as when people come up to thank me,” said Badger. “That’s why I do it.”

WMN EMPWRMNT: MARINA GATINHO

By: Melissa Hurtado

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Women supporting other women. Encouraging each other. Lifting each other up. Pure kindness and positivity. It should never be about rising above men. Nor should it be about demeaning those who think differently. Anybody can partake in this movement for as long as they respect those principles.

 

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: Being a woman… being a woman is… I could only think of my mom. She is a woman. My mom did it all on her own with four children; not to prove that she didn’t need a man in her life to help her become as successful as she is today, but to prove to herself that she is capable of getting shit done despite being a single mom. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that… it’s okay for women to be sensitive, empathetic, nurturing, etc…those are all beautiful qualities that should always be embraced (this applies to men as well)—we can still be CEO’s or Presidents because we are just THAT worthy…what, like it’s hard? (Yes, she quoted Elle Woods).

 

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: I bring compassion. Compassion, period. We’re all going through the same shit and just trying to be the best versions of ourselves. I think it’s so important for both women and men to understand that concept…and, yeah, like… have some compassion. man, and all else will flow.

WMN EMPWRMNT: ISABEL PAILLERE

 

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Personally, women empowerment seems to only exist in Dove commercials, rather than an element incorporated into daily life. However, to me, women empowerment is a unification of the female species, wherein our independence and equality are celebrated. I only hope that woman empowerment will become a theme prevalent in daily life and not only existent in commercials. 

 

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: In my perspective, being a woman means being a leader. The fact that we bear novel life with our bodies barely scrapes the surface of what we women have the power to do. Yet, I feel like many people forget that factor, leaving women to be considered as less than. I think individuals will always underestimate us. But as a woman, I believe our duty is to ultimately prove them wrong.

 

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: When it comes to women empowerment, I make my own contribution by uplifting women. I am not afraid to positively “hype” someone up if I see a fellow female living their best life. For example, if I see one of my girlfriends working hard and doing well, you must believe that I will applaud her. I think it’s important to support one another because a sweet gesture like that can make someone’s day and as females, I believe we all need to be more proud of each other

WMN EMPWRMNT: GABRIELLE MONTES DE OCA

By Melissa Hurtado

GABRIELLE MONTES DE OCA

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Women empowerment means sisterhood and solidarity.

Every woman on this planet is fighting the same fight each and every day. No matter how different two women are, they likely share similar experiences when it comes to gender-based oppression. These experiences connect women in a unique way- it makes us sisters and sisters stand together.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: Womanhood means freedom and possibility, but when it doesn’t, it means stoicism and strength.

Being a woman allows me to safely explore what it means to be pretty. Femininity and prettiness are intertwined, and as a woman, I get to have fun with both. I also get to be vulnerable and sensitive with those I trust. I have deep, meaningful friendships with men and women. Men are not as safe doing the same.

However, as a woman, I have faced danger and limitations. My parents raised me with fear, afraid of how the world could hurt me so they did their best to control and shelter me for as long as they could. It came with love “but a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams.”

I can’t blame them- I have felt fear when I would walk home and strange men would yell at me, or when I would get stared at on the metro, or when I got followed to my car, or when I was flashed in a university parking lot, or when a faculty member at university tried to force me into an embrace.
In these events, as a woman, I have to stand my ground and be strong.

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: I bring vegan, love filled donuts, an open mind, a big heart, and loads of La Croix.

WMN EMPWRMNT: Alexandra Marie Vargas

Photography and Interview by Melissa Hurtado

ALEXANDRA MARIE VARGAS

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Woman empowerment is what allows us, women, to comfortably have a mind of our own. It’s what allows us to express how we feel and do what we love. It is freedom. It is a step closer to being equal to one another as it should be.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: To be a woman is to be brave. to be bold. to be strong. to be love. I believe it isn’t the easiest role, but one of the most beautiful ones.

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: What I bring to the table in focus of woman empowerment is knowledge, ingenuity, and kindness. I feel that they play such a big role in woman empowerment for individuality. Knowledge binds us with ourselves and allows us to open our mind to know more than what we’ve been told to do or feel. Bringing out our own ingenuity that differentiates one from another. With kindness, we accept and love one another.