“Like there was a snowball’s chance in hell.”
This is what a friend of mine told me when I expressed my
disappointment at Carol Moseley Braun’s withdrawal from the race to
the White House. I’d like to tell you that I was shocked at his
comment, but I wasn’t. It’s true and it’s not because she’s not the
most worthy candidate because she is – well, was.
Braun has outstanding experience with judicial and legislative
entities, serving as a U.S. senator, U.S. ambassador and assistant
U.S. attorney. Not that this mattered, most of us took one look at
the African-American female and said in one way or another, “like
there’s a snowball’s chance in hell.”
What’s really sad is that even the most socially conscious of
us, who would love to see this crusader of civil rights behind the
desk of the Oval Office, know that it’s an uphill battle. We are
more likely to throw our weight behind a candidate who may not be
the most qualified than take greater risk of seeing our
constitutional and reproductive rights continue to dwindle under
current political leadership.
It’s the political and social climate of this country that makes
this attitude present even in the most progressive of minds. It
almost feels like we’ve regressed. The last woman to make it this
close to the primaries was Shirley Chisholm more than 30 years ago.
That is shocking.
Women and men have made great strides toward sexual equality in
this country. It’s great that women are getting more recognition in
history books, the workplace and the home, but we forget that the
liberties we enjoy so unconsciously today were fought for and are
still not absolute. Why aren’t women valued as leaders at the
executive branch? Is it really so unrealistic for a woman to be
president of the United States that Hell must freeze over?
A 1999 Gallup poll revealed 92 percent of Americans were
“willing to vote for a qualified woman as president.” Most of us
like to think of ourselves as liberated enough to not let the
sexist notions of yesteryear interfere with our political
decision-making, but perhaps these notions are so etched into our
psyche that we may never really overcome them.
In a survey of 1,500 boys and girls, psychologist Ann Ruben
posed several questions regarding the qualification of “girls” to
be president in 1993. While more girls had thought about being
president than boys, two-thirds of males and one-third of females
surveyed said girls weren’t smart enough. One-fourth of the girls
and one-third of the boys surveyed had also been told that only a
boy could be president of the United States.
Children are receiving messages about who is, and who is not,
fit to be president as early as elementary school. I doubt any
teacher or adult figure in the lives of these children instilled
this message on purpose. It’s the message we receive when women
make up more than half of our population, yet Geraldine Ferraro was
the one and only female VP nominee on a major party ticket, and
that was twenty years ago. When most people think Hell must freeze
over for Carol Moseley Braun to actually have a chance in next
year’s election, no one ever has to say anything for a child to
hear that message. In a country where Wal-Mart banned a T-shirt
depicting Margaret from “Dennis the Menace” that proclaimed,
“Someday a Woman will be President” because it went against their
philosophy of “family values,” the message is loud and clear.
When I was in elementary school, I wanted nothing more than to
grow up to be a singer/lawyer/actress/first woman president of the
United States. My mother thought this was silly not because I was
incapable, but because surely by the time I’d be old enough to run
there would already be a female president. I’m not getting any
Marika is the news director for KCSU.