Day: January 2, 2012

Not Ready for Female President

I haven’t done a political post in some time but my thoughts have been on the upcoming Iowa caucus.  I am very curious to see who will emerge as the Republican frontrunner (combined with New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida).  There are things I like and don’t like about all of the candidates and I honestly have not decided who I like the most.

I relate to Mitt Romney and feel he has the business sense to help get this economy running- like America’s CEO. I also like his dedication to family and traditional values. I am not a fan based solely on his Mormonism, but I must admit I do feel a certain underlying connection when he speaks. I felt the same thing when Harry Reid spoke at BYU and I would never vote for him, so clearly it is not a deciding factor.  I do think that he is good in debates and will present a formidable candidate to Pres.  Obama.  I also think he is a smart choice for Republicans because he has experience working with democrats to get results.  He is a compromisor (sometimes too much so) but after 4 years of uncompromising liberalism I can live with a moderate Republican.

That said, closest to me in positions is Michele Bachmann who as a fellow tea partier believes in a small federal government with greater rights going to the states.  For example, programs like education should be handled at the local, state level.   Bachmann has also been consistent in her support for marriage, minimal spending, against raising the debt ceiling and supporting pro-life legislation.  The interesting thing is whenever I talk to my Republican friends who mirror my political opinions they all say that Bachmann is ‘unelectable’.

Why is that? Part of the reason is she has some polarizing positions that won’t attract moderates, but I also think that America is not ready for a female president. 92% of American’s say they would elect a female president, but I don’t know if that statistic pans out to actual candidates.  A 2007 study found  “that a significant percentage of people are hiding their true feelings on questions related to female candidates for the presidency….While women candidates seem to be making some strides in races for many offices…the office of the presidency may be difficult to reach.”

Why would people be resistant to a female president?  Well, I think the problem lies that a female candidate has to have everything that a male candidate needs plus they need to prove their leadership abilities (something that is a given in most men).  A woman must also prove that their family is not a barrier to their work (something that has been thwarting women in many careers for years).

Also, all of the female candidates so far have been criticized for their styles in ways men are not. Someone like a Hilary Clinton is too much of a pantsuit wearing unfeminine witch (I would use another word but I have a family friendly site!) or in the case of Sarah Palin you are too much of a prom queen, too fluffy.  Men are not judged by such a shallow filter.  For example, John Edwards was criticized for his $400 haircut and his fluffy internet video getting ready for a photo shoot; however, it was only a momentary laugh and it did not seriously hurt his candidacy.  If it had been a woman with the video getting primped and spending $400 on a haircut she would be immediately dismissed as a joke.

Anne Kornblut author of ‘Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win describes what is an ‘electable’ female candidate:

“I’ve played this game with myself for a long time. She is completely impossible. She would have served in the military and stayed home and raised her children full-time. She’d be married to someone with money, and she’d have some business experience. There’s just no way she could exist. There are too many demands on this candidate.

But joking aside – she’d be authentic, which would need to be true of a male or female presidential candidate. She’d cross the credential threshold – she’d have demonstrated that she’s qualified, and she’d be a communicator. Those are the areas where women have sometimes struggled.”

The problem is there will always be a male candidate with similar positions without the barrier of being a woman.  What political party will take the risk on a female candidate when you can pick a male without that risk?

I really wonder if the democratic party (a generally more progressive party) cannot elect Hillary Clinton with all her leadership experience is there an electable candidate out there?  I really don’t know.  I certainly believe there are many candidates that are capable and would do a great job but are they electable?  I just don’t know.  I wish they were but I don’t know.

It is generally seen acceptable for a woman to be chosen as a vice presidential choice and perhaps this is a first step but perhaps not.  Since the first vice president the office has been seen as  “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived”.  Women have always been the supporters of men and is that not the role of the vice president?  Of course, there is always the potential of becoming president as the vice president (happened 9 times in our country’s history) but it is still the silver medal of political power.

The problem is not that women couldn’t do the job, its that people subconsciously feel they can’t do the job as well.  It may be unfortunate but true that people still see maternal affection and feminine virtues as weak and fragile.  I happen to believe they are strengths and provide an empathy that is not as present in most men who have not spent time caregiving in their lives.  In addition, not all women, or all mothers, are the same, even if they are perceived as being the same or as having the same weaknesses.

Just as men shouldn’t be looked at as one voting block, women should be seen as unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses.  Unfortunately, I don’t know if this will ever happen.  I hope it will, but again my fear is there will always be a male candidate that doesn’t have to overcome these barriers.

What do you think about this issue?  Are we ready for a female candidate?  If so, why do you think the candidates so far have failed (assuming Bachmann does not get the nomination)?  What can be done to create a viable female candidate? Who do you think should run that hasn’t? Do you feel that motherhood is more of a barrier for women than fatherhood is for men?  What other barriers need to be breached and how can that happen? Do you feel resistant in a woman’s ability to lead? (Be prepared to defend yourself on that one!) Do you think that a women would make a better or worse president?  If so, why? I would love to hear your perspective.

On a lighter note, there have been 2 female presidents on network shows (Commander and Chief and 24) so that’s some headway. Now for life to imitate Hollywood!