When the Candidate’s a Woman

So what do you say as a woman when someone questions why you’ve decided not to support a certain female candidate?  It’s a silly question in a way, but as Sarah Palin contemplates entering the presidential candidate field, should we be asking ourselves how much of her lack of support from women is because we’re so much harder on each other?  How much is the fact that she’s not an intellectual, which is something we don’t hold against men?  Does something about her hair, her walk or her clothes not suit us because (as Deborah Tannen has observed) what women do tends to be “marked,” that is to say, more noticeable than a man’s fashion style.  We’ll criticize a woman’s hair, clothes, speech and gait much sooner than we’ll do for a man.

Assuming some of the above paragraph has merit, how would you respond when someone asks you why you don’t jump at the chance to help put a woman in the White House?  Shouldn’t people who were enthused to see a black president be equally excited about a female president?

Yes, we should be enthused about the possibility of a female U.S. President.  Such an event would only be playing catching up with a good part of the modern world.  We should avoid being too hard on women, noticing every move and choice they make. When a woman enters the candidates’ field with the smarts, skill, political savvy, historical and current events knowledge and dedication of Hillary Clinton (for example), then no matter her political party women should be taking a hard look before dismissing her out of hand.

But what do you say when someone asks why you’re not supporting a particular woman.   You counter the question with a better one.  You ask, is she smart, skilled in politics, honest, experienced, an effective communicator and able to play political hardball?  You’re not looking for a female candidate who is far superior to the male candidates (as so often required for advancement to high levels).  You’re looking for a woman who is every bit as effective as the better male candidates.  They’re certainly out there.

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