The winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election will not be a woman.
(Well, unless Tulsi Gabbard has a heck of a surge, I suppose.)
I was offline most of the day in a meeting, but once I got to the airport I had time to review what had happened in the news today. Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the Presidential race. She joins Kamala Harris, Marianne Williamson, and Amy Klobuchar (as well as all the men who also dropped out of the race.) I’ve never run for office – at least I haven’t, yet – but it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there for the highest office in the land and fight that good fight. I have worked on campaigns before. It is grueling, exasperating, sometimes exhilarating but often thankless, hard intense work. There is no shame in fighting the good fight and coming up short.
Conventional internet and social wisdom is that our country either “just isn’t ready” for a female president, or “the patriarchy wins again. The media is so unfair. It’s a double standard. Women have it so much harder than men and are so unappreciated.”
Wrong. No. Just stop it. Enough. Do you really think so little of yourselves, our gender, the men in our lives? The country we all love?
I see lists all the time of women we should look up to and see as women who set the standard for standing strong and changing the world. I saw an article posted by several people on social media today, kind of a requiem for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential run. It was a lovely, inspiring article full of heartfelt emotion. I completely understand the disappointment when a candidate that you’ve worked for and believed in and supported isn’t successful. The article praised women for persisting. I certainly have no argument about that. The article listed a lot of female trailblazers as examples. Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Billie Jean King, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Bree Newsome, Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sally Yates, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Klobuchar. It’s not that these women should not be admired. We might quibble for what and how much, but that is not the point. I see this list all the time, maybe with an addition here or there but basically the same list. And you know what I do? I sigh.
What about any of these women? Why do you think it is that their accomplishments aren’t as memorable or noteworthy as any of the women listed above? Why wouldn’t these women be called by name?
Sally K Ride – First female US astronaut in space, first woman selected into the US astronaut program, physicist, co-inventor of the robotic arm of the space shuttle.
Condoleezza Rice – Selected by President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice was the country’s first female National Security Advisor. After her government service, she served as Provost of Stanford. When she was named Provost, Stanford was running a $20 million annual deficit. She eliminated that debt in less than two years. She also speaks multiple languages, is a classical pianist, and is such a big football fan that she has been mentioned many times as a potential Commissioner of the National Football League.
Jeanne Kirkpatrick – First Female US Ambassador to the United Nations and a member of Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council.
Sandra Day O’Connor – First Female Supreme Court Justice. Before that, she graduated Stanford magna cum laude. She was the first female speaker of ANY statehouse in the United States, in Arizona.
I’d like to be remembered as the only woman who ever voted to give another woman the right to vote.Jeanette Pickering Rankin
Jeanette Pickering Rankin – First American woman to be elected to federal office in the United States. She was elected to the US House of Representatives as a Republican from the state of Montana in 1916. Yes, before the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was even ratified.
This list could go on, but I hope I’ve made my point.
The problem isn’t Elizabeth Warren’s gender any more than it was Hillary Clinton’s gender. Their gender isn’t a problem at all. Women have been achieving amazing things as long as we have been on this earth. I’m not saying there isn’t any sexism or discrimination in our country. There is, and I’d argue it goes in both directions (but that’s another post.) But let’s go back in time to the women I’ve mentioned in this post. Jeanette Rankin was elected to the US House of Representatives, from Montana, no less, before women even had the right to vote! Do you still want to tell me that your gender is the problem?
It’s not our gender.
I know women who were trailblazers on the road to more equal rights for women. I love them, even though I doubt we’ve ever voted the same way on any issue or for any candidate. There are two profound discussions I remember having with them that stand out among many. One evening, during a wonderfully robust – and not at all angry – discussion about abortion and gun rights and Hillary Clinton, I turned to my cousin and mentor. “I keep thinking of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. You think of yourself as a woman voter. I think of myself as a voter.” And it’s thanks to her efforts and legions of other women before me who fought for my freedom to think that way. I don’t vote for a candidate because of their gender any more than I vote for or against them because of their race or sexual preference or anything else that doesn’t matter. I vote for people because of their policies. And I vote for people who are authentic. I don’t vote for them because I need them to be priests or spiritual leaders or moral icons. I vote for them because they make me feel like this:
Another time, after a conversation where there was some disparaging of a certain female vice-presidential candidate because of how “dumb” and “stupid” she was, I said “I always looked up to you all, thinking that you were fighting for the rights of all women. Thinking you were fighting for me. But now I wonder if you were only fighting for the rights of the women who were going to vote like you.”
So, please. Stop with the self-limiting and simplistic idea that the only reason a woman hasn’t yet been elected President is because our country isn’t ready for it. You can shout that from the rooftops and raise your fist in anger, but that doesn’t make it any more true. That kind of attitude does yourselves and all the rest of us, and ALL of the successful, amazing women who have come before us a huge disservice. And it does our daughters and nieces and those other young women who look up to us a disservice, too.
Work like hell for the candidates who best espouse your values, and I don’t mean yelling at the top of your lungs on social media at all of your friends who mostly vote and think like you do. That’s not work. Run for office or volunteer for someone who does. Support the candidate or the cause, not just the gender. One day soon, there will be a woman president. And maybe then, you will recognize that we were ALL part of that accomplishment, regardless of our politics.