When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a lot of different things: a doctor, a lawyer, a ballerina, a singer, and on my days off, a worker at McDonald’s. Clearly I also harbored a secret desire to be a Time Lord, since I imagined I could do all of these things at once. Throughout this election season, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Big One, that one job I wanted more than any other. I wanted to be the first female President of the United States.
As a child, I didn’t see the deeper, frustrating implications of that statement. I recognized that we only ever had male Presidents, and so I decided that I would be President and that I’d be the first female to do so. Beginning and end of story. It wasn’t until I was in high school, and starting to understand politics and elections, that I began to grasp how unfortunate my dream was. The dream itself isn’t so bad, as long as one has the right reasons for seeking the presidency. The unfortunate part is that we are 240 years into our democratic republic and only now, this year, do we have a female major party nominee for President. That she almost can’t lose the election is only small comfort.
You see, it’s 2016…and I’m eligible to run for President in only 8 years. If I get enough of an advance-planning bug, I could lay that out in my calendar. It fits within a 10-year plan. And only now, this year, do we have a female majority party nominee for President. That’s well worth repeating. To see just how far we lag behind in the female head of state/government department, I consulted the thoroughly unacademic yet still informative Wikipedia. Here are just a few of the countries that are ahead of us on this particular leadership development:
- Ceylon/Sri Lanka (PM Sirimavo Bandaranaike, 1960-1964; 1970-1977; 1994-2000)
- India (PM Indira Gandhi, 1966-1977; 1980-1984)
- Argentina (President Isabel Martinez de Peron, 1974-1976)
- Iceland (President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, 1980-1996)
- Central African Republic (President Elisabeth Domitien, 1975-1976)
- United Kingdom (PM Margaret Thatcher, 1979-1990)
- Pakistan (PM Benazir Bhutto, 1988-1990; 1993-1996)
- Myanmar (State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, elected April 2016)
Some female heads of state (not counting monarchs who inherited their crown) go back even further. And while there are many countries still that are not represented on these lists, and where women have even fewer rights, it is incredibly problematic that for our claimed values our politics have evolved enough to accept a female candidate for the highest office in our nation only in the last decade. (Yes, Secretary Clinton had a reasonable shot at the candidacy in 2008.)
Other than offering a little weekend education, I mostly wanted to give my inner child some comfort. Little Me, you had no way of knowing when you made your audacious claim to be the first woman President that the premise itself was so sad. You couldn’t know that you would almost be eligible when someone else would claim the title. Or that, as a 30-year-old mother of a daughter, you would only be sad that it took us so long to get here. Take comfort that we cast our ballot for the actual hopeful First Female President(TM). Be hopeful about the polls that show that dream is within reach. Get excited for the massive ice cream sundae we’ll have as we watch the results come in on November 8th.
Most of all, Little Me, be glad that when our little girl dreams of what she wants to be, that dream will simply be President–no qualification required.