In Hawaii the race for governor this year will be heated. The Republican ticket has a chance of taking the governor’s seat for the first time in since 1962. However, the Democratic ticket is strong, with the lieutenant governor running for the big seat.
This race is different than any other in the country. It is between two women. This is only the second time in US history that two women have ended in the primaries and will run against each other for a gubernatorial position.
While I do not follow Hawaii politics that closely, I was empowered with this news. Women can make it in politics as this race shows.
Women are outnumbered in comparison to the proportion they make of the country’s population. Women make up the majority of the country in the numbers. However they hold only 13 percent of Congress, 10 percent of governorships, 23 percent of state legislatures and 27 percent of statewide elected offices in the country.
Why is this? Women face many challenges in politics. First they deal with the label of being the minority, and the downplaying of their abilities as their means of making it on the political turf.
Second, they deal with being labeled by issue. I dare to think that some elected woman has not been asked her stance on abortion and family interest policies.
Third, women are labeled by appearance. “How many ways can Hillary Clinton do her hair?” is a question I have heard way too often.
Fourth, women are cast into the “role” ideal. They cannot be both politician and parent. And if they are both, their skills as either a parent or politician are called into question.
Fifth, women have to prove themselves. According to the Rutgers Center on American Women, women in politics are more likely to have graduate degrees than men.
The last reason I am going to mention, while I believe there are many more, is that women are seen as too weak and emotional to handle being in politics. If you think Margaret Thatcher or Dianne Feinstein is weak, I would hate to see your definition of a strong man.
For these many reasons women have yet to represent their true numbers in the political arena. However, elections like the one in Hawaii, where two women are facing off to become governor, show that women can surpass these challenges and be seen for their ability as politicians, and not be labeled as just women in politics.
Women offer many different perspectives to politics. They haven’t historically been in the old network of political favors and back room politics. Another perspective claims that women work in politics with consensus and caring, rather than conflict. This is a theory that I can see, but I don’t always agree with. I know some women who can conflict with the best of them. Women also have the perspective of having multiple roles in society. They may see more of the issues, because they have dealt with more of them.
The main problem today in increasing women in politics is apathy of young women to the political system and lack of getting involved. They don’t see many women in politics, and, therefore, do not have many mentors to follow. Being a woman in general means dealing with many expectations, many roles, many societal pressures, and many challenges, including becoming involved.
It is up to women leaders to look back and take the hands of young women to lead them forward too.