Women have made tremendous strides in politics over the years, yet sexism and misogyny have kept the presidency an exclusive home for men.
All 46 United States presidents have been male. This male dominance is not a result of a lack of political activity from women. In fact, in recent years, women have obtained more positions on local, state and national levels of government.
The most significant strides made by women in politics are reflected in both the executive and legislative branches of government.
According to the Center for American Progress, a record number of 142 women were elected to Congress in 2020, 118 women were elected to the House and there are over 2,000 women serving as state legislators.
Nancy Pelosi regained her position as speaker of the House in 2019, after previously serving in the role from 2007 to 2011. This not only added to her historical achievement of becoming the first woman elected to be House speaker, but made her the second person in 60 years — and first woman — to be entrusted with this position twice.
In the same year, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids became the first Native American women elected and Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar, became the first Muslim women elected.
Kamala Harris was elected as the U.S. vice president in 2020, making her the first woman — and first woman of color — to serve in this position. With Harris serving as vice president and Pelosi as speaker of the House, this is the first time in American history that the next two people in the presidential line of succession are women.
The increase of gender diversity within American politics should indicate that Americans are ready for a woman leader, but many remain skeptical about the idea of a woman president.
A 2020 article published by The Conversation argued that members of the legislative branch are typically positioned to rise to higher levels of government. However, despite having obtained powerful positions in government, this has not been the case for women.
Some research suggests the hesitancy regarding a woman president stems from voters’ worry over the perception of their peers. In other words, while someone might vote for a woman president, a negative attitude toward female leadership from a neighbor would ultimately deter them from doing so.
A USA Today article read, “Seventy-one percent say they personally would be comfortable with a female president, but just 33% say their neighbors would be — a telling and perhaps more candid measure.”
However, this seems like an attempt to disguise their own discomfort regarding female leadership as concern for their neighbor and shift blame from themselves. After all, if these individuals truly wanted a female president, they certainly had the opportunity to elect one at the time the USA Today poll was taken.
In 2020, a record number of six women were a part of the Democratic nominee contest. Six women with political backgrounds mirrored their male nominees. Six women who spent years having served as senators and representatives, and yet the Democratic race dwindled to one male nominee.
Americans had the opportunity to choose a woman president, but chose the familiar option.
Many did it under the guise of “electability.” Some Americans claimed they did not think it possible for a woman to obtain the amount of votes needed to secure the presidency, and if a woman could not procure enough support then their one vote for a female candidate would be rendered useless. This reliance on the assumptions of where the next person’s vote may lie seems like an excuse for an individual to vote for the comfortable male choice.
Vote Run Lead founder Erin Vilardi thinks this claim is just rhetoric misogynists use to influence their votes. She told Politico, “Electability and its coded sexism and misogyny still hold strong in 2020.”
Vilardi’s statement rings true especially when considering that all of the 2020 female Democratic candidates had served in varying levels of government. They were elected into each of their positions by their constituents. Despite sexist “electability” rhetoric they were clearly elected, making the “electability” argument an invalid one.
To other Americans, this overwhelming belief that women cannot secure votes for the president discouraged them from voting for change.
“I remember Elizabeth Warren being down a lot of points. I didn’t think my vote would really matter,” said Florida A&M University nursing student Kirah Snead.
We have witnessed women operate within powerful political positions. We chose these women to lead us at the local, state and national level. We have already validated their electability and we cannot allow the opinion of a neighbor to deter us from progressing forward and electing a woman into office.
If we can entrust women to be our mayors, senators and representatives, then the presidency should be no different.
What’s the point of building your daughters up if we’re only going to teach them that their success has limits?