The current election cycle is a reminder of how far our country still has to go in its treatment of women. We’ve never had a woman president. To understand why, take a look at the history of women presidential candidates.
The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull. She had to form her own party because the established political parties refused to acknowledge her candidacy. After all, women couldn’t even vote back in 1872. Woodhull ran on a platform of “free love,” meaning legal protection for abused women and no-fault divorces. Preachers denounced her as an offense to God and the natural order of things.
A century later in 1972, Shirley Chisholm ran for president as a Democratic Party candidate. Every time her name was mentioned, people laughed. No one believed a black woman should be, or could be, president. Her presidential run is a footnote because 1972 was the year of Nixon’s reelection and the beginning of the Watergate scandal.
In 1984, no woman ran for president, but Democrat Walter Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential candidate. They lost by a landslide to incumbent Ronald Reagan, but their campaign wasn’t helped by the attacks against Ferraro and her husband. Her husband was Italian-American and he owned a construction company in New York City. Voters were warned that a vote for Geraldine was a vote for the Mob.
This time around, Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton announced White House runs. Ms. Fiorina dropped out early. Her critics warned that she would be a lousy president because she was a difficult boss and showed poor business judgment while she was CEO of Hewlett Packard. Hillary Clinton stands accused of dishonesty, poor leadership and owing her political life to Wall Street bankers.
Historically, male candidates have also been accused of poor business judgment, poor leadership, not playing well with others and being in hock to special interests. But these “character” flaws are rarely considered a serious handicap for male candidates.
What does this tell us about our country?
- Women are deemed un-presidential for exhibiting the same qualities that apparently make men presidential material.
- Women only appear on a major party’s ticket when that party is expected to lose the general election.
Would a woman make a good president? I don’t know. I do know that some incredibly useless, incompetent and politically tin-eared men have occupied that esteemed office. A woman president could hardly do worse damage than the male duds.
I’d like to see women of all political persuasions work together to fight the social stereotypes that automatically discount women as presidential material. Years ago, a cigarette brand marketed to women used the tagline “We’ve come a long way, baby!”
I think we’ve still got a long way to go.
Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.
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