2012 Summit Special Section Opinions

Female politicians face uneven field

Commentary by Lauren D’Souza XCP ’14
SPECIAL TO THE ROUNDUP

Here’s a challenge for you: can you name 10 women politicians?

Think about it. Really think about it. The first few should be easy: Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi. But how many can you name beyond those?

Currently, women make up 51 percent of the United States’ population, but only 17 percent of Congress. At this rate, it will take more than 70 years to achieve gender parity in government. When an equal number of seven-year-old boys and girls are asked if they want to be president, the same number say yes. But when an equal number of 16-year-old boys and girls are asked the same question, the number of girls who say yes drops by 70 percent.

Something in you should say that this isn’t right.

According to USA Today, women tend to follow “self-selection,” or the necessity to uphold successful campaigns and careers as well as household responsibilities.

A woman typically needs and wants to be a mother, wife and caretaker, which makes it nearly impossible to campaign and win. It is hard enough for a woman to hold a successful career while raising a family, let alone raise the average $3 million to secure a seat in Congress.

As Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in the 2011 documentary “Miss Representation,” “The question I was most frequently asked was, ‘Who’s going to be taking care of your children?’ And, of course, it’s one of those questions I don’t think a man has ever been asked when he runs for office.”

In addition, women are turned off to politics because of the intense scrutiny.Most politicians’ lives are an open book, but women receive extreme criticism from the media concerning their life, debates, political decisions, wardrobe and even their hairstyles.

Political women receive a bad rap for doing anything–just look at Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin. The media laughs at them in every step of their campaigns.  What woman wants to bring that life upon themselves?

The hype in a woman’s political career is the campaign, but the public rarely hears about what a woman does after she is elected. Many women are treated as ineffective “tokens” who carry positions but don’t have real power. Take, for example, Dianne Feinstein, a female politician from California. She has held political office since 1970 to the present, including Mayor of San Francisco; Chair of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the International Narcotics Control Caucus and the Senate Committee on National Intelligence; and is one of the two female United States senators from California.

She has accomplished countless feats in politics, yet most Americans are still unfamiliar with her. However, a man with far less achievements and public service, such as U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle, is a more nationally known name.

I have observed a recurrent belief that women simply are not capable of holding a political position in the United States. Some may disagree, but many believe that women are simply too melodramatic and unknowledgeable to hold a position of power.

FOX News commentator Bill O’Reilly asked a guest on his show what the downside of a woman in the Oval Office would be. His guest, author Marc Rudov, responded, “You mean besides the PMS and the mood swings?” Many people believe that women are too emotional and unreliable to run the country, whereas a man would be more stable and knowledgeable.

Even in countries such as India, Syria and Lebanon, there are mandates for female representation in government. According to an October 2010 USA Today article, India requires at least 30 percent of the government must be female. France necessitates 40 percent female board membership in business.

The article also notes the fact that 89 countries surpass the United States in female representation in government.The United States needs to change the out of date belief that women aren’t capable of holding a position of power.

Women need to emerge as strong figures that can be as powerful and successful as men. Even the Chinese Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong said that women “hold up half the sky.” So, why can’t women in this great country hold up half the government?