Would a Woman Really Be a Better President?

Would a Woman Really Be a Better President? February 8, 2016


Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright
By REUTERS on February 7, 2016. Photo by Richard Perry/The New York Times.

So now we know: Any woman who doesn’t vote for Hillary Clinton is going to a “special place in hell.”

Of course, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was joking when she used that line at a rally for Hillary in New Hampshire.

And not joking.

Since the women’s movement began in the 1970s, women have been expected and sometimes pressured to support other women in any endeavor. Don’t betray the sisterhood.

I don’t object to being reminded that women in the United States do not yet have full equality and that we’re all in this together.

But I also remember the political ethos of 1992, which was dubbed The Year of the Woman because so many women ran and were elected to office. The U.S. Senate leaped from two to six female senators, and 24 women were newly elected to the House.

What annoyed me at the time, and still does, was the implication that women are automatically superior to men. That somehow they are more enlightened, more fair, more compassionate, more inclusive and generally less enslaved to belligerent testosterone or susceptible to scandal than men.



To be honest, I laughed out loud when I heard Madeleine Albright say, “Just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

And the best part was watching Hillary’s belly laugh – she literally doubled over laughing – in a moment of humanity.

Starbucks cup with quoteTurns out Madeleine Albright has been using that line since at least 2004. She first applied it to a group of female foreign ministers who were her friends.

It also has been used by Taylor Swift, who first heard it from Katie Couric.

It’s even on a Starbucks coffee cup, attributed to Albright.

But the polls and pundits tell us not all women are leaning toward Hillary. Not the Republican women, obviously. And not the young women flocking to Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.

Are they betraying the sisterhood?

Or are they looking at real human beings and evaluating the candidates’ ideas and policies, regardless of gender packaging?

Women will have achieved real equality when nobody notices whether the candidate is male or female.



What about the superior compassion and inclusivity women used to promise?

Women in the Senate still argue they could run the place better, because women are more willing to work with others.

But cooperation isn’t what many voters are looking for this time around. They are gravitating to the tough talkers – almost regardless of what the candidates are actually saying – and gleefully planning to open up a can of whup-ass on whomever they blame for the country’s perceived problems.

This year the needle moved from 99 to 104 women in Congress — still fewer than one in five members – and they’re anything but kinder and gentler.

Mia Love, who became the first black Republican woman in the House, promised to be “kind of a nightmare for the Democratic Party.”

Iowa Republican Joni Ernst billed herself as a mom, a farm girl and a lieutenant colonel who carries “more than just lipstick in her purse.” I think she means a gun. (Watch her at target practice in this campaign ad.)



In the early days of the women’s movement, the idea of a woman president was the ultimate goal. It would mean women had arrived; the battle of the sexes would be over. And the world would be a better place for it.

Some of the early feminists didn’t think they’d live to see the day. They still might not.

Because even though gender equality isn’t perfect in this country, women have been given enough opportunities – in politics, in boardrooms, in every profession and military task – to prove they are (drum roll, please) merely human beings.

Like all individuals, they are good at some things and not others. They come in all personalities, and they excel or fail at their goals.

Women have achieved so spectacularly in the last few decades that it’s really not a big deal for a woman to run for president. Not even as big a deal as it was in 2008 when Hillary first ran.

Women also are not the only ones facing institutionalized injustice in America.

Patty Murray, who was elected senator from Washington state in the 1992 Year of the Woman, told The Atlantic in 2013 about attending a dinner for women senators with President Obama at the White House.

“Sort of toward the end of [dinner], Senator Barbara Boxer said, ‘You know, I’m sitting here looking at this table and outside the window of the White House, and I’m thinking, a hundred years ago, when women were fighting for the right to vote, they stood outside that window and were arrested. I’m pretty sure that the 20 women around this table would have been those 20 women who were standing outside and got arrested.’

“And without pausing, President Obama said, ‘I would have been serving dinner inside.’ ”

We’ve all come a long way. And have further yet to go.

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