Politics and other awkward stuff

A Woman’s Place is in the House. . . The Peoples House.

Forget rocking the cradle. It’s way beyond time that women rocked the system — and the Oval.

Play like a girl. Can it be that we’re finally serious about putting a woman in the Oval? Seriously, it’s been three hundred years, people. Don’t you think it’s about time we installed a woman in maison blanche? I admit I’ve been just a tiny bit outraged that, though women are the other half of the population, they still haven’t been able to sit behind the desk in the Oval. We still don’t have dibs on that resolute chair, but this year, VP is a really good start.

We pride ourselves on being an enlightened country, of having an advanced culture, yet other mainstream countries have boasted women leaders for decades. Where have ours been? Sure, we finally have women candidates but the welcome mat has repeatedly been left askew. The ERA amendment, a critical step towards equality, waits along with a host of other approved bills, to be passed. Yet, when it finally does, will it erase the mindset of ingrained patriarchy? I doubt it. Decades of bias and attacks on gender have never been felt by their male counterparts who’ve assumed leadership roles as their anointed right. Those who consistently vote for them apparently have never considered that the ‘hand that rocks the cradle’ would think more than twice before slamming it on the nuclear button.

We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly. Margaret Atwood

Helen of Troy. Indira Gandhi. Golda Meir. Margaret Thatcher. These iron maidens didn’t bring the warm and fuzzy. They brought their A-game, exactly what their countries needed in their time. They led their countries to war within a male hierarchy, conforming to values that allowed them to lead in the first place. Today’s Angela Merkel of Germany, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Finland’s Sanna Marin and the European Union’s Christine Lagarde know how it’s done because they, too, had to overcome gender bias. At times, they had to outmen the men – in heels.

I’d like our country to see for itself, in this critical moment in time, what we would look like with a woman in charge, even second in command. Seriously, do you think this country could do worse than the current appalling tidal wave of incompetence? Yet, blatant, ridiculous untruths and accusations are unleashed with abandon when a woman has the audacity to claim the same positions as men have taken for granted through the centuries. Minutes after this potential vice president was, the Facebook and Twitter universe were on fire with vile gender and racial attacks.

We are better than that – or should be.

More than 50 years ago, tiny Sri Lanka was the first to break the political gender barrier, India followed a few years later. As of November 2019, 15 women leaders serve their countries as president, prime minister or chancellor. Shocker, but those countries are thriving — and none of them are in the Americas. Today only 56 of 146 nations have a female head of government. The fact that we still have not reached that point, is in itself cause for a collective head scratching!

In business, there are still more leadership seats where the glass ceiling is neatly intact. Apparently, the idea of women as true equals seems as surreal as aliens landing in NYC. While it’s true we are hardly the only place in the world where patriarchy rules, we should be committed to putting equality, in all dimensions, on the menu. Even in my own little world, I saw lines drawn within the advertising agency my husband and I partnered jointly. I created and ran the business, was its creative arm, social media and promotion maven; my husband was the PR counsel. Yet, I had to constantly remind clients, who insisted on talking to ‘the owner, the boss’, that I was their person. Even in small business, it seems hard for people to accept that the person in charge isn’t a ‘he’.

Some leaders are born women. Geraldine Ferraro

If women did man the Oval (no pun in, perhaps infant mortality wouldn’t number among the highest in the civilized world. Maybe we’d think twice about 1% of the population having wallets equaling the worth of 3.6 billion people. A mom Potus might be more concerned about climate change that may very well end the world as we know it for our children. And as women, who represent 80% of consumers, a female leader might better address sustainability, food technologies and pharmaceuticals. 

Every man on this planet was born of and nurtured by a woman. “Men can boast about occupying top slots in history’s long list of conquering maniacs, bloodthirsty tyrants, and genocidal thugs.” said Steven Pinker of Harvard University. “Women have been and will be a pacifying force. Traditional war is a man’s game.” Amen.

In this land we call home, we have certainly seen much change, although gender stereotypes, repression and omission still exist in spades. Women represent half of law school graduates; but only a third are lawyers, 15% are federal judges or law firm partners. Half of med school graduates are women but only 25% become doctors. Women make up a quarter of the US Congress, ranking us 97th among 193 nations worldwide in the percentage of women in the lower house of Congress. Currently, women comprise 6 of the 50 state governors, 20 of the 100 US Senators, as well as the first woman Speaker of the House. Women vote more than men, which is understandable since we had to fight ferociously for the right men took for granted. More women than ever are participating in the political process, but still the operative word is participating – not leading the land.

Empowering women can change everything. But first, we need to change minds. We are not the weaker sex. We are not run by our hormones nor do we run away from confrontation or difficult decisions. We communicate differently — not less effectively. We have more estrogen than testosterone, but that enables us search for solutions first, instead of knee jerk physical reactions. But, hey, if you want to talk physical, I dare any man, if indeed it was biologically possible, to go through childbirth. Then we’ll chat about who’s the weaker sex.

Victoria Woodhull was the first to throw her beribboned bonnet in the ring for president, followed through the years by Belva Lockwood, Margaret Chase Smith and the first black candidate, Shirley Chisholm. Winning the popular vote, Hillary Clinton got closer to the presidency than any other woman in history. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marianne Williamson, Tulsi Gabbard and Amy Klobuchar were included in this year’s robust, diverse group of presidential candidates. But it was Kamala Harris, chosen from that group, who was selected as the Democratic running mate of Joe Biden. As not only first woman but, first woman of color to be named as potential VP, we could very well fulfill the hopes of little girls everywhere. But, unfortunately, predictable smoke signals of racist, misogynistic attacks have already begun. Women, especially those of color, need a lot of bubble wrap to protect against being painted as ‘too ambititous’ or ‘nasty’, let alone downright racial slurs.

I believe women who hold an equal share of leadership strive to find more creative, persuasive and collaborative ways to solve conflict. Are woman always steady as they go? Nah. We’re human. Sometimes we won’t be on our game (and no, not because of hormone or ‘that time of the month’). Domestic pressures, geopolitics, economics, and a million other global issues have existed throughout history and it’s unrealistic to expect male or female to bring overnight change. But, it’s reasonable to think that women bring, at the very least, the same skillsets, knowledge and desire to create peaceful, secure and best outcomes as any male counterpart.

In the future there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders. Cheryl Sandberg

Trust me, this is not a diatribe about men. I had a dad, a wonderful husband, gave birth to a male I adore and I have 5 little grandmen I love to the moon and back. Boys are urged to behave one way and girls another yet, stay at home dads can be just as nurturing as women. Gay dads, who’ve had to go through many hoops to have those kids, are excellent examples of exactly that. Men have invented incredible things and I’d never suggest a world without them (well, maybe sometimes). I never claimed the globe would spin perfectly on its axis if only women ruled it, but you have to admit it ain’t working well at the moment, right? John Lennon sang ‘Give peace a chance’ and women are way overdue for their chance at what men have had, as an inborn right. In fact, it should never have been a question in the first place.

Would a woman in the White House cause the world to suddenly link arms and sing Kumbaya? I doubt it, though it’s a nice thought. I don’t have a seat in government and I’m hardly perfect myself so I have no expectations that just installing a sister girl in office would transport us to Utopia. I’d like to believe, though, that there might be better, more innate ways of changing war, terrorism and poverty narratives. Certainly all the dudes who’ve ruled the world until now haven’t exactly done a bang up job and at the moment, the bar is so low, my youngest grandboy could limbo through it. 

This year, we have a history-making, groundbreaking chance, to vote someone into the Oval who will be tasked with the mammoth job of helping bring back the very ‘soul’ of our land. To bring back truth, sanity, civility with an experienced, dynamic woman of color at his side. After 300 years, women have more than earned the right to take a shot, and their rightful place in the best seat in the house.

The White House.  

5 thoughts on “A Woman’s Place is in the House. . . The Peoples House.”

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