Felicia Muftic: We’ve come a long way, but not far enough
Grand County, CO Colorado
Over 40 years ago I ventured into politics and became a candidate for a local government office. I had held an appointed office, led a couple of citizen action groups on behalf of consumer and urban planning interests and believed what my closet feminist mother told me: Women can do everything men can do. The women’s rights movement had been under way and I decided the time was ripe to venture onto the co-ed stage where no other woman had dared to step in Denver’s history – a run for mayor.
I had my own standards regarding the gender issue: I would run on merits, not gender, and my unstated message was “do not elect me because I am a woman; elect me because I can do the job better than the other candidates and my vision for the city is a better one.”
Those standards were naïve for the times. In many eyes, the concept that women had the ability to succeed in powerful roles was yet to be accepted because few women had broken glass ceilings to demonstrate their capabilities. The race was also one of a reform-minded new generation pitted against an old style entrenched machine, so there were other factors at work. I made a good showing, gave the incumbent a fright … and I lost.
Since the 1970s, women have been elected and appointed to positions of power and they have been able to demonstrate their abilities. However, elections and office holding are still not gender neutral. Women are often judged differently than men in similar positions.
I am especially disturbed by the current vilification of women who have risen to power in the U.S. One case in point is Hillary Clinton: Muttered under many breaths were comments that alluded to the b-word and there were whispers about her sexual preference because she was perceived to think the way men did and had the ambition to do it. She was able to establish in the 2008 election that she and other women were unquestionably capable of being president.
What would have happened had Hillary Clinton been elected president and not Barack Obama? I fear she would have become the same kind of voodoo doll the right has made of Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House. Earlier, Republicans had also used the personal vilification of first lady Hillary Clinton as a tactic to try to unhorse her husband and his popular policies. The Republicans in 2010 positioned Pelosi as the red meat reason to oust incumbent members of Congress. They demonized Pelosi to attack President Obama, whose personal popularity was still high, frequently visually linking the two.
The Republicans’ publicly expressed attack strategy was that Pelosi was an extreme San Francisco liberal, but the agenda she so successfully shepherded was nearly identical to the President’s. Pelosi’s steely demeanor evokes a visceral reaction among some that is different than the reaction to others in similar powerful positions. I am hard pressed to find the same attitude toward equally steely faced partisan Republican or Democrat male counterparts: just old boy joshing about a sun tan or a public personality lacking in oratorical ability.
Sarah Palin has a very different approach to the “women in politics” quandary.
As mama grizzly she is turning stylistic differences with men into an asset, while promoting her instinctive identification with the mood of many with her great communication skills and dedication to family. Nonetheless, there are questions of her degree of sophistication about the complexities of the world stage and her ability to make decisions that would not have unintended consequences. Humans still top grizzlies in the food chain because of our desire to gain knowledge and to apply it to problem solving. It is now time we all become gender neutral and judge women candidates for national leadership on their grasp of the details and understanding of issues in addition to their personal appeal.
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As the supportive arm of the Grand County Animal Shelter, the Grand County Pet Pals would like to sincerely thank the Town of Winter Park for their generous grant award this year.