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!

13 thoughts on “Not Ready for Female President

  1. Hillary Clinton, like her or not — and you obviously do not, was more than qualified to be president. She was certainly more qualified than Barack Obama in 2008. You say that the Democrats were not prepared to elect her — except that she did get more votes in the primaries than Obama. It was just a fluke over how primary delegates are chosen and then the exclusion of Florida and Michigan that ended up costing her the nomination. If she had gotten the nomination, then I strongly believe that she would have beaten McCain in the general election. The country was tired of Republican rule after 8 years of GWB. As for Michelle Bachmann & Sarah Palin, neither of them is qualified to be President. They don’t have the knowledge or experience to carry it off.

  2. Thanks for the quick comment. I actually would have greatly preferred Clinton to Obama. She had some proven record of working with Republicans on issues, which Obama had never demonstrated.
    I had honestly forgotten about the Florida and Michigan exclusions. You are probably right in that it was a democratic year in 08 but don’t you agree that Clinton was put to a different standard because of her sex? A female candidate has to ride the line between being too butch but not being too willowy and feminine. Its a standard men are not held up to.
    I remember at the time being amazed at the difficulty Clinton had in fundraising. If she was so electable why would that be the case? With the appeal of the Clinton name in Democratic circles you would think she would be able to get donations. At one point she had to contribute to her campaign to keep it going. Perhaps it was a fluke as you say but I’m not convinced. I think there were still enough people who were insecure about a woman president that it made a difference.
    I agree with you on experience in regards to Palin but Bachmann has served in the Congress for nearly 6 years. That’s twice as long as Obama was senator for. She’s on the financial services committee and the Intelligence Committee. I’d like her to have more experience but I think she has got some.
    (I also didn’t mean to imply that I felt Clinton was a witch or that Palin was a prom queen. I just feel those were the images put out by the media that both had to overcome)

  3. Hillary raised an amazing amount of money, but the primaries were fought all the way to the end (which is rare) and Obama raised a record amount of money, so Hillary had no choice but to throw in some of her own money to keep up, or just throw in the towel… Also, remember that Hillary was criticized (fairly, in my opinion) for “wasting” too much money early in the process in an attempt to blow her competition out of the water. When she lost Iowa (finishing 3rd) that breathed life into her opponents, and her coffers were depleted, thus putting her in a difficult position and ill-prepared financially for a long primary season — which is exactly how it turned out. Hillary was also criticized for spending too much on consultants (like Penn) who ran off with millions…

    As for Bachmann, I guess six years is enough, but she just doesn’t make me comfortable that she has a full grasp of all the issues and their complexities. I don’t like her overly hawkish foreign policy views while I agree with her stance on spending and taxes. I agree that Obama did not have sufficient experience when he decided to run — and look what’s happened! He’s been a disaster! Hillary, on the other hand, has spent most of her adult life preparing, and would have done a better job. I think she’s done a very good job as Sec’y of State. That’s one area of the Obama administration where you don’t hear too many complaints (a credit to Hillary.)

    Finally, I would just say that any woman candidate is going to face discrimination and have to live up to impossible standards, but to a certain degree, so do all candidates for president. Just look at the ugly negative campaigning used against all the candidates — no one is exempt. Frankly, I’m getting pretty sick of politics as usual, and wishing for a pox on all of their houses. That’s probably why I have something of a soft spot for Ron Paul. He doesn’t play by anyone’s rules except the U.S. constitution. This country needs to re-connect with its roots that made us great — before we completely destroy everything that was ever great about the U.S.A.

  4. Interesting. I had forgotten all of those details about her campaign. I completely agree that Obama has been a disaster. He is a classic example of a great campaigner but a terrible politician. The 2 skills really are quite different. I also agree that Hillary has done a good job as secretary of state. In fact, the last 2 women in that position were both outstanding. Hopefully candidates like Hillary and Bachmann have paved the way, making it easier for future candidates. That would be great!
    I also agree with you about presidential politics. They are all under such a magnifying glass. Sometimes I wonder if it was better in the days where an FDR or JFK could have their little dalliances and nobody really knew about it or reported on it. Candidates today do not have that luxury. I appreciate Ron Paul’s fresh perspective and his consistent voice. Unlike Romney or Perry it is difficult to accuse him of flip-flopping on issues. I also enjoyed Herman Cain (not that I would necessarily have voted for him or Paul) as a fresh voice and it is a shame it had to end the way it did.
    I think one of the tough issues politicians face today is do you stick to morals and pursue the ideal (such as the balanced budget amendment) or are you a realist and get done what can actually pass (such as the Boehner bill for the debt ceiling). I’d like to think I’d stick to my ideals but with all that pressure it would be tough. I can see why people make both choices. People like Bachmann and Paul never really compromise which on one hand I admire but on the other I wonder how would a government function if everyone did that? Like I said, I’d take a moderate republican right now over the hard core liberal we’ve had for 4 years. It will be interesting to see what happens tonight in Iowa. Who would you vote for?

  5. As I said, I have a soft spot for Ron Paul. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I think he has the right take on economic issues and the destructive role of the Federal Reserve. I also agree with him that the United States cannot be the policeman for the world. This is no longer the post-WWII era. We should bring our troops home. As Paul says, we should promote freedom by setting a good example, not at the end of a gun barrel.

    1. I like those same things about Ron Paul. I worry though that he would not be able to compete with President Obama. Thoughts? But on the other hand the reason they chose McCain was because he was supposedly so electable and moderate. Then he ended up being too lukewarm for everyone. Its interesting. I certainly hope Paul doesn’t run as an independent. That would be disastrous for the Republicans.

  6. I don’t like the “electable” argument. Does that mean that we should always settle for the middle of the road candidate who will support the status quo? I will vote for the candidate who best represents my views (or at least the views that I care the most about.)

  7. The comparison between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin is interesting. They fall on opposite spectrums, but neither of them can win. Hillary is defeminized, labeled as a bitch and sometimes called a lesbian for her leadership qualities (and because people think that must be why she can put up with Bill’s mistakes). Wheras Sarah Palin is over-feminized. People want a woman who can perfectly play to both sides, but even then… would this perfect woman be able to win? Studies show otherwise… for instance they did a study where they gave participants 2 resumes and asked which resume they would pick for a leadership position. One resume showed higher qualifications than the other. When there was no name at the top of the resume, participants picked the more qualified resume. However, when the qualified resume was labeled with a woman’s name and the less qualified with a mans, they almost always picked the man. There are lots more studies like this. How much greater would be the discrepancy between presidential candidates?
    The argument that makes me SO angry that I don’t really want to get into here is the argument that because women menstruate they are unfit to rule. Cause yeah I’m president, my period hits and I’m just gonna be like “Let’s bomb China today because I have cramps.” It makes me so mad, and some of my female friends have said this too! Women are not naturally more emotional than men! We are both emotional in different ways. We just count some things as emotions and others as not. Men fill about 80% of prisons in Australia UK and US I think? Doesn’t violence come from emotions like rage, bitterness, ect.. I’m not saying all guys have those emotions, but it’s ridiculous to say women are more emotional just because they are often more upfront with their emotions.

  8. That study is interesting. When most people are raised by women it is surprising so many would not find a woman to be as qualified? Fascinating. It will be interesting to see as this new generation of more educated women raises kids if that changes?
    The menstruate/emotional argument is totally lame. As human beings we all have ups and downs that when charted are fairly predictable. Women learn from an early age how to deal with these ups and downs, men don’t, so if anything we may be more prepared!
    I do wonder if motherhood is more a distraction than fatherhood, even with a stay-at-home Dad? It just seems like mother’s are more tied to the family than fathers. Its one thing for a Michele Bachmann who’s children are older but Sarah Palin had a small baby (special needs baby too). This would be a challenge. It would be a challenge for any president to have a small baby but it is more so if the mother is president. Not overcomable but would be tough.
    I just wonder if any of the political parties will ever take that risk to chose a woman. I also wonder if having a woman president would be any different or would it be basically the same as a man?

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