Edging Closer to a Female President
Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872.
It’s 2020, and we have still yet to elect one.
We are correct to be excited about Kamala Harris being the first female and first Black vice president. We talk about how significant it is and the importance of representation. The question we aren’t asking is why did it take so long?
America is supposed to be the land of opportunity and better than the rest of world when it comes to advancement. Here, women aren’t discouraged to work or run for office. During the 2010 and 2018 midterms, a record-breaking number of women ran for and won political office.
According to a recent study, 52% of Americans, including 60% of women and 45% of men, say they would feel "very comfortable" having a female president. And, Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote four years ago by a margin of nearly three million. But before Clinton, a woman hadn't even won the nomination of a major political party.
In the 2020 field, more women ran for president than ever. But, in the end, who were the final two candidates? Two older white men: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
I do not want to diminish the fact that women were encouraged to run and had a voice. However, if we are honest with ourselves, they faced scrutiny not just on policy but traditional female critiques. From what they were wearing to if they were “angry,” to if they were feminine enough, the female candidates faced all kinds of obstacles that their male counterparts did not.
Kamala Harris, at one point, was criticized for being, "too ambitious." Has there ever been a male presidential candidate in American history who didn't have ambition?
Harris presented even more of a problem, given she didn’t go the traditional motherhood route. That was effectively taken care of by her PR team and her “Momala” moniker. Whether or not her stepchildren actually refer to herself that way, it did make everyone feel more comfortable.
It’s more than an oddity that we haven’t had a female president. Aside from Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, almost every democracy has had a female leader, from India and Pakistan to Liberia.
Why haven’t we? A few reasons.
Some polls, "imply that nearly one-third of Americans believe their 'neighbors' are unwilling to vote for a woman." In other words, as Kate Manne, an assistant professor at Cornell University interpreted it, "I’m not biased, but they might be, so I ought to vote for a man." This risk-averseness is compounded by the mainstream media, which reflects the misogyny of the public.
The sexism in political coverage is exacerbated by the fact that 70% of political coverage, and 74% of election news at online outlets, was done by men, according to a report from the Women's Media Center. It's amplified when you consider that they seem to exist within an echo chamber: Male political reporters tend to retweet other men three times more than their female colleagues.
The vast majority of political commentators in this election said Joe Biden was the only candidate who could have beaten Trump. Ask yourself, why is that? Is it because, even today, we feel uncomfortable with a powerful female leader, regardless of color?
It’s internalized misogyny. Women can hardly be blamed for it. We are still, in 2020, forced to fight for equal pay and limited roles in power positions. Even the Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be ratified, despite having finally passed the necessary 38-state threshold in 2020, 48 years after it passed through Congress.
This hostility toward women in high positions does not serve us well. The absurdity of it is compounded when analyzing the recent coronavirus pandemic. Most of the countries that handled it best were female-led, from New Zealand to Germany.
When we actually do elect women, they are admired in this country, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Katie Porter, to Kamala Harris.
It’s a falsehood that the women’s movement is no longer needed. These last four years revealed an inconvenient truth about how some women view themselves. Yes, racism played a part in women's support for Trump, but it was also the psychology of wanting to be associated with a powerful masculine figure; a domineering man that sees our value as being sexual, or as mothers and caretakers.
This country needs to learn how to balance how we view women and our roles in society. It can be done through education if we look to female leaders worldwide.
Given all that has happened, isn’t it time for America to wake up to the idea of a female president? It shouldn’t matter if she is a mother, a wife or possesses any other traditional female attributes.
Much of the world has adapted to and accepted female power as normal. I don’t recall anyone questioning whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel was a good mother. Likewise, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The world is watching and waiting for us to catch up. Isn’t it time for America to be the land of opportunity for all, regardless of race or gender. Now that we are about to have a female vice president, it stands to reason that will open the door to electing a female president. It’s beyond time we did.