When Hillary Clinton announced that she would be running for the Democratic nomination to the presidency last month, she fueled the firestorm of comments over finally having a female president. While the debate over having a woman serve as the nation’s top-ranking public service official has been raging for nearly a decade now, it’s important to recognize the work that other female politicians do and how the media portrays them.
According to research by the Federation of American Scientists, 108 women serve in in the 114th Congress – not quite a perfect reflection of the half-female population of the United States, but listed as record-breaking nonetheless. Most serve in the House of Representatives, and a majority of females in both Houses of Congress are Democrats. Internationally, women also serve in high-ranking positions, with figures like Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany) and Sonia Gandhi (President of India) making waves in politics.
As the debate continues at home, people are eager to jump on the implications of what it means to be a woman and President. Extreme political pundits are quick to denounce candidates like Clinton simply on the basis that she’s female. Some conservatives cite religious faith as reasons why women aren’t qualified to run for office, while others say that “with the hormones that [women] have, there is no way [a woman] should be able to start a war.”
However, the reality is that there is more to the presidency and making important legislative decisions on behalf of an entire nation’s population than starting a war. Being the face of American domestic and international issues requires the capability to effectively persuade others, meticulously negotiate with other groups in everyone’s best interests, and much more. It requires a thorough understanding of how politics work at home and abroad, and how to deal with geopolitical issues and current events as they happen. Nowhere in the job description of the president does it say that women are excluded from being knowledgeable about this or unable to perform these duties.
Women are already able to serve as mayors, governors, and representatives for their cities, counties, and states. Internationally, women in democratically structured, first-world countries have gained the right to vote over the past century, allowing our interests to be heard without having to go through a proxy of males to voice them. Women have authored important bills regarding healthcare, economics, and social equality. Overall, though, there’s incredibly low female participation in formal politics, and we need to remedy that. However, we need to remember that we shouldn’t elect someone solely because they are a female, but rather appreciate how they are a female in addition to their political choices and what they can bring to the arena.
When election season rolls around, take a second to look at the female candidates for your area. Chances are that many of them are equally as, if not more, qualified than their male counterparts, and have a lot to bring to the table.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.