A few months ago, my friend Luria was participating in a scholarship pageant at our university. One of her questions during the Q&A session was “Are we ready for a female president?”
Luria’s answer was that yes, the modern woman was ready to take on the role of POTUS, but that the modern world wasn’t, yet. It was a nuanced answer (especially for a high-pressure pageant situation!) and I was impressed! Not only did she win the pageant (I see you Miss Kappa Alpha Psi 2014), but she also planted a question in my head.
Are we ready?
With Hillary Clinton all but admitting she’ll run for office on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, we could see the very real possibility of a woman running this country in the next few years. Or at least, an office bid again, which would be monumental in itself, since no woman has run for either of the highest offices in the land since Geraldine Ferraro in 1984.
If you asked my 5th grade class, they’d tell you that I once gave an entire presentation on what I wanted to be when I grew up, and that was President of the United States. I had a poster with Magic Marker bullet points and everything. I put the Presidential Seal on the podium that I was a smidge too short for. They even said the pledge of allegiance when I went up to present, which may have been going a bit too far!
Would I want to be president today? Probably not. I don’t think I’m quite made out for the cutthroat world of politics, to be honest, as much as I adore the fiction that Scandal keeps throwing out there; it’s addictive and completely unrealistic, but #TeamOlivia for life. Do I want a woman to be president? Now that’s a loaded question.
If a woman were to take the highest office in all the land, I imagine a lot of things would happen, both good and bad. For one, if she was married, like Hillary is to Bill, then we’d have our first First…Husband? First Man? What’s the title? We’d have to create one. There would be conversations started about whether women can “have it all,” if the new female POTUS has children (Hillary’s are all grown and she’s going to be a grandmother, so that conversation might not apply to her). A conversation about whether or not it’s important to note what Madam President is wearing (Hills is infamous/famous for her power suits and pantsuits); do we ever hear about what President Obama is wearing? No, because no one cares. No one’s thought to ask, except maybe a fashion editor or two.
Is asking what the first Madam President is wearing be a bad thing? In some eyes, yes, because it trivializes her power and overshadows her important decisions on security, budgeting, and foreign policy. In some eyes, no, because it makes her more human, more approachable, and a welcome platform to promote American designers, as Kate Middleton regularly does with British designers.
Will rumors be started à la Jill Abramson, the former Managing Editor of The New York Times, that the new president is too “bossy” or “overbearing” or “blunt?” Will there be commentary on how the First Husband puts together a State Dinner, or will we wonder if the Madam President will have a hand in it as well? Will a “Madam President” unite this country, or divide it?
The funny thing about a lot of -isms, like sexism, racism, eliteism, etc, is that they are often subtle. We don’t always notice when we’re being sexist, for example, because it is ingrained firmly into our psyche. In fact, I still sometimes have to catch myself before saying “Girls don’t do that!” or “You’re the boy, you do it.” But I do think this country is making progress, which is why I’m on the fence regarding this issue. Yes, I would love to have a female president, a strong one, a courageous one, one who pushes bills through Congress and makes real change, effective change happen.
But that woman will have a huge weight on her shoulders. She will feel the pressure of history bearing down on her every move, every high-heeled step. Perhaps someone like Hillary, accustomed to such pressure already, would be best. But one must agree that even for the most seasoned of politicians, being the most powerful leader of the free world will always be more of a challenge than any of us can ever imagine.
Do you think we are ready? Tell me in the comments. I really am quite curious as to what you think.