Danielle Zawadzki

“There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard, unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives, and unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.” Those who disagree with this statement are most likely Americans who see nothing wrong with the inequalities between men and women that continue to this day. Some would be more likely to disagree with it if they knew that the words belong to Hillary Clinton, a person characterized by the media as emotionally lacking, aggressive, butch and disconnected from others – in short, the antithesis of femininity. Clinton has received the most criticism as a result of personality characteristics that make her seem “hard to relate to,” and yet these same characteristics in men are held in high esteem because they are traditionally masculine. Funny how a woman is perceived as hard to relate to for no other reason than that she possesses masculine characteristics, yet men who are not representative of the diversity of America are consistently elected into office. History teaches us that being white and male are prerequisites for leadership of the country, but how many Americans can truly relate to this standard? The idea than men are naturally better leaders than women demonstrates that we are still not as progressive as other countries such as Ireland, England, Jordan and India, which have had female heads of state for decades and still managed not to fall into ruin.

Hillary Clinton formally announced Jan. 20 her decision to run for president in the 2008 election. Whether or not she will actually become president remains to be seen, but her candidacy itself represents an important turning point in American politics. Following the women’s suffrage movement, women were granted the right to vote Aug. 26, 1920 with the passing of the 19th Amendment. Eighty-seven years later, according to a poll conducted by CNN.com, 60 percent of Americans say they are ready for a female president. Could it be that Americans are willing to accept the possibility that a woman can lead the country just as well (and maybe even better) than a man? Or is it simply that we are tired of the current administration and need a change? My cynical side says it’s much more of the latter than the former. I’ve heard many men as well as women challenging a woman’s capacity to run the country based on stereotypical excuses like extreme emotionality and the ever-popular PMS. And yet, many Americans have already ruled out Clinton as a possible presidential candidate because she does not embody any of the relatable “feminine” qualities.

Like her, any powerful and independent woman in America who doesn’t “stand by her man” is caught in a catch-22 that makes it nearly impossible to rise in the ranks of society. Only days after announcing her decision to run for president, controversy surrounds the “female factor” of her candidacy, but very few people know anything about her politics. Clinton is often criticized for taking the middle ground on various issues such as abortion, but she has diverse experience from serving on many senatorial committees, including the Senate Armed Services Committee. No one seems to care about her stance on the issues because the media is frenzied over her gender’s capacity to lead a country. However, I believe that America is ready to see a change in the face of political leadership and it just might look like that of a strong and assertive woman.