Thursday, September 4, 2008

Women, politics and the glass ceiling

I absolutely swore I was never going to get into politics on this site, but so much has happened in this election year that I can't contain myself. Not only did we have a very strong woman who came close to a win for the presidential nomination among the Democrats, but we now have a woman running for vice president on the Republican ticket. Both of these achievements are noteworthy and important.

That said, however, I have to say I am absolutely fed up with the cynicism and sexism being displayed by political pundits and others which suggests -- and sometimes outright states -- that these two women are somehow interchangeable. They're not, and I find it offensive to all women voters to suggest otherwise.

I believe women -- just like men, hopefully -- will vote for a candidate because they represent views that the voter shares and not simply because the candidate is a woman. If that's the case, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin are not even remotely interchangeable. The supporters of either candidate should share their stances on the issues. To believe that Hillary Clinton supporters can be bought simply by adding any woman to the Republican ticket is insulting. That would be just as true had Barack Obama chosen Clinton as his running mate purely to capture the vote of women. In either case, it is cynicism in the extreme.

As a woman, here's what I expect to see on any party's ticket -- two people who share my beliefs, two people who will stand up for this country, for the average family in all of the ways that really matter to me, two people who have vision and proven leadership skills. I want the kind of balance and experience that convinces me that a vice president can step in and become president on the day after Inauguration Day, if tragedy should necessitate it.

Historic moments are a wonderful thing. Cracks in the glass ceiling are important for what they tell us about the potential of women to do anything they set their minds to, even take on the top jobs in this country. But women -- just like men -- have to earn the right to get to the presidency or vice presidency through hard work and leadership, by taking clear stances on the issues so voters know exactly who that person is. Like her or not, hate her policies or not, Hillary Clinton was a well-known, experienced candidate. Can the same be said for Sarah Palin, about whom we seem to be discovering new things every day? Is there enough time between now and election day to discover all we need to know?

For all of the Republican attacks on the media for asking questions about Senator John McCain's choice of a running mate, can any responsible voter not want to be fully informed about any candidate for one of the most important jobs in the world? We owe it to ourselves and our country to go into a voting booth this fall with every single available fact well known. The least important of all of them is whether one of the candidates happens to be a woman.

Sherryl Woods

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