The United States is still a baby. Sure, we’ve come a relatively long way in our nation’s diminutive 200-plus-year saga, but as a whole, our history is still a young one. In a country founded on the ideal of “all men…created equal,” it seems we are still far from general equality. And while we’ve made progress with the balance of man, what of his eager sister? Where does she stand in all of this?
It may be time to find out.
A little less than half a lifetime ago, talk of a female president would be considered ludicrous. In about 40 years, this nation has gone from not understanding why a woman would pursue a dream outside the household to observing women who pursue White House dreams.
You heard me, White House.
But is this country ready? Is it possible for the American people to accept a woman as the nation’s most powerful figurehead? Through recent governmental decisions, media hype and even a television series, attention to the White House has shifted. MSU women and men alike toil with the idea as they express mixed reactions.
“The simplest answer to this question is, yes,” said anthropology and English junior Rebecca Fabian. “The more complicated version is, yes, with conditions. The people that I hope will be leading this country in the future – in politics, intellectually, economically, in the arts – are, I believe, ready for there to be a female in the White House.”
Make no mistake, the evolution of women in this country has progressed by leaps and bounds. The feminist movement has taken the contemporary woman from suffrage to CEO. American women are now on the Supreme Court bench (albeit in small numbers), throughout the news and while we may still have a while to go before sexism is vanquished and direct equality is established in both wages and respect, the modern American woman has never been more powerful. [quotetommy]
A nationwide poll conducted by the Siena Research Institute and sponsored by Hearst Newspapers found more than six in 10 people are ready for a female president. Even more astonishing is the same poll found an even greater majority – a staggering 81 percent – said they would vote for a female president, whether this country is ready or not.
However, not everyone supports the idea of electing women into the White House. “At this present time, I do not believe our nation and government is stable enough to handle having a woman in the White House,” said journalism sophomore Kristin Lee. “In a time of fear and suspicion, people tend to find comfort in a father figure because of the male-dominated society ideals which have been cemented into our minds for centuries.”
Up to this point, it’s clear Lee’s perspective is one that has been vehemently cemented in national leadership, at least as a trend in executive branch appointments. The United States has never had a female president or vice president. No woman had been nominated to either office by a major party until July 1984, when democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale appointed Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. And many would disagree that a father figure is what the country needs.
While the American public has never seen a female in the White House, it’s clear numerous qualified women are comfortable in an executive role. An obvious representation can be found right here at MSU with President Lou Anna K. Simon. Simon, elected as the 20th school president since 1857, is the first female to serve in MSU’s top position. She is also one of only nine women with the position of chief executive officer among the entire Association of American Universities.
Of course, president of a Big Ten university and president of the United States are two wildly different titles. However, it is critical to remember the two communities share a host of similarities. Both institutions have their own population, goals, enemies, alliances, flag, songs, partnerships, problems and a sense of loyalty.
Being the president of anything is not an easy position. If anything goes wrong, the top official is always the first to blame. The question then arises as to whether or not a woman at the highest position in the nation can handle that sort of hostility.
“It would be difficult for a woman to be president because she’d be subjected to a myriad of opposition,” said psychology junior Jaclyn Scott. While Scott said she supported the idea of a woman for president, she warned the practicality of the situation would make for a tumultuous exhibition. “I don’t question a woman’s ability to handle the opposition, but I can only imagine that she would be watched under a magnifying glass. I feel like a woman would have to work twice as hard to prove herself as the qualified person in power. She would set the standard, and that’s a lot of pressure.”
However, students like Fabian passionately disagree and believe the time for a female president is now. The 20-year-old feminist, whose passion has culminated through helping to found Feminist Uproar Magazine last year, for which she multitasks as the magazine’s staff writer, editor and financial director, was assertive in her opinion of a female-led America. [women magazine]
“I think that feminists and other people who may not want to be labeled as such but still work toward equality between the sexes, have made great advances in changing the thinking of the majority of the population about what it is like to have women in the workforce and in positions of power,” she said. “There will always be a segment of the population that is averse to these ideas and who will never be ready for such a radical change. But as history and recent times have shown, having a male ruler is not necessarily the key element in productive leadership.”
One of the strong catalysts for this debate is lighting up American homes during primetime television through ABC’s new hit show, “Commander in Chief.” Starring Geena Davis as president, the show is a virtual example of what having and being the female leader would be like and is stirring up more than a casual debate – it’s stirring up an influence.
“A part of me thinks that [the show] looks a bit too dramatic, but at the same time I think that what’s on television is a representation of what is going on with popular thought in the country at the moment,” said English and social relations junior Chris Matus. “We’ll have to wait and see. If the show is really popular, then there is a good chance that America is ready for a female president.”
And its influence is already obvious. “Commander in Chief,” airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m., has peaked so far at 16.94 million viewers, keeping it at the top of Tuesday night ratings and at the forefront of American dinner table discussions. Hot on the heels of the 2008 election, the show is sparking political interest in female leadership. “I think it is opening many people’s eyes to the fact that a female president may be in the future,” said journalism sophomore Kelly Kane. [quotekrasman]
And how about that 2008 election? Is it possible we could have a woman candidate? Yes, not only are America’s top political aficionados calling it possible, most are calling it likely.
The buzz is mostly centered on Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady and current Democratic senator of New York. Although Clinton hasn’t announced or even whispered the possibility of a run for the top seat, the senator seems to be sculpting her image to obtain a more moderate, nationwide appeal.
If her recent behavioral trends are trying to suggest anything about a trip to Washington, it seems to be working on the American people. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll showed although 46 percent of Americans were either “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to vote in favor of Clinton, 53 percent said they were “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to support the potential candidate.
“There seems to be a lot of females who feel as though they can relate to Hillary Clinton, which is an important factor in winning over someone’s vote,” said kinesiology junior Danielle Krasman. “However, I’m not sure that’s enough to get a female into office. I think it will take more of the nation to believe in women’s equality before a woman can be voted in.”
Some Spartans don’t seem to buy any of the hype. Craig Burgers, first vice chair of the College Republicans at MSU, disagrees with the controversy surrounding the debate. “The media likes to make a bigger deal out of it than it is,” he said. “I think most people would have no problem supporting a woman for any position, including president. We have seen this in the U.K. with Margaret Thatcher and now in Germany with Angela Merkel.”
We can sit around all day and speculate on “what if,” but this goes deeper than aesthetics. As a nation we have to get off the narrow track of speculation and begin to start thinking critically and analytically. Tommy Simon, English junior and active member of the Students for Economic Justice, shared his perspective on the dispute. “A lot of us work really hard to make a difference in the world, and the one thing that really gets us down is politics. You see, politics are used to distract people from the real issues. People become so wrapped up in wanting to win that they forget what they are fighting for.”
Instead of worrying whether a woman will be elected president, we should attack those in power and force them into advancing a feminist agenda,” Simon said. “Remember, the people in power are there to reflect the people’s will. Therefore, it shouldn’t matter who they are, but what the people want – democracy. I am more concerned about people than politicians.” [womentommysimon]
Continuing with his outlook on the political architecture of our society and his idea on the political ramifications of having a female president, Simon expressed serious concerns. “If we work to have a woman in the White House, we will end up with a person whose absence of a penis only lasts until we see the men controlling her strings,” he said. “But, if we work for love, justice and anti-oppression, we will begin to naturally elect candidates who represent those values. What our ultimate goal must be is a society where there is no power structure that can be abused.”
There is a good possibility 2008 could be the year that finally sees a female candidate run for the White House. Whether or not we’re ready as a nation is still to be decided. Students at MSU, including Simon and Fabian, will be watching the political scene closely as the election approaches.
“For us, we define feminism as empowering women; not trotting upon anyone else on our way for equal rights, but lifting ourselves up through the help and support of others to accomplish those things we set out to achieve,” Fabian said. “Those aspirations can be anywhere from being a full-time mother, which is recognizably a very taxing and rewarding job, to being the CEO of your own company, or, who knows, maybe even president of the United States.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *