Is the United States ready for a female president?
I don’t like that we’re asking that question — I don’t like that we think we need to wonder.
Because when we ask, “Are we ready?” we know that the answer might be “No.” We remind ourselves that having a female president would be anomalous, and that our first Madam President (or is it Ms. President?) would be under extra scrutiny — not only for being the leader of the United States of America, but for being who she is.
Michelle Obama — no stranger to this kind of scrutiny — thinks we’re ready.
In fact, it sounds like she thinks we’re overdue! In an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, she said that we should have our first female president “as soon as possible,” and that her husband’s presidency shows that a person doesn’t have to be a “particular race or gender or background or socioeconomic status” in order to be president. You don’t need to be any particular type of person in order to lead the country — you just need to be qualified.
I also think that asking, “Are we ready?” implies that the idea of a female president is a new one. To counter that, let me offer you some history:
The first female presidential candidate, Victoria Woodhull, ran for president as a representative of the Equal Rights Party almost 150 years ago, in 1872. Republican Margaret Chase Smith became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency at a major party’s convention in 1968, and Shirley Chisholm was placed in nomination for the Democratic Party in 1972. As you can see from this list, Woodhull, Smith, and Chisholm have long been in good company, both in third parties and in the major two!
Arguably, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run was the first time that having a female president was a realistic possibility — and that possibility may be even more realistic in 2016 — but by no means was it new!
If the answer to “Is the U.S. ready for a female president?” is “No,” what would it take to make us ready? Less cultural fear of women in positions of authority? Less sexism in the wider culture? Somehow, I think that a female president would chip away at those problems, not just be the result of overcoming them.
I’m with Michelle Obama — we’re not just ready, we’re long overdue. Bring it on, Madam President!
Sasha Albert holds a Master’s degree in Gender and Sexuality from the University of Amsterdam, and participates in reproductive health and justice activism in the Boston area.
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