Kelley Girardin May 3, 2009 Women in Politics Exam Essay Motherhood, Money, and Morals Women have come a long way politically in the last century. After most countries were granted suffrage, it still took decades to see a significant change in the amount of female politicians to take office. Almost 100 years after women were given the right to vote in America, and the United States has still not had a female president. This is a reoccurring issue that plagues women in every country, in every continent. Being a female politician is not an easy job though, and women have to go through a lot more hardships than men do because of their gender. Motherhood, money, and morals are the most common barriers that prevent women from achieving political roles, but what makes female politicians so spectacular is the way that they overcome these obstacles. The biggest obstacle women face with the consideration of a role in government is leaving behind their preconceived notion of a women’s maternal job and stepping into the dirty world of politics. Breaking the stereotype of the average household is not an easy task to accomplish. The traditional household consists of the man working outside the home and the woman staying home to take care of the children. Dating all the way back to the cavemen era when the man would go out and hunt, and the woman would stay at home to take care of the cave babies and cook. Also, women are naturally biologically born with maternal instincts, so when many women reach their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s children are commonly seen as a main priority, while interest in politics are put on hold either temporarily, or more often, permanently.
In countries like China, where the One Child Policy (a rule regarding the amount of kids families are allowed to have) is implemented, women do not have the option of having multiple kids. This makes it easier for some to pursue bigger careers because they are not constantly on maternity leave. Some American women get married and have kids because it is what all the females in their life do including their mother, their grandmother, and many women in their family from prior generations. Statistics prove that children are very likely to follow in their parents footsteps. One movement that is encouraging women to leave the house is the increasing amount of employed women in the U.S. The immense increase of women in the workforce is igniting womenâ€™s interest in politics. In other countries, such as the Netherlands area, the female employment rate has been high for a very long time now. With the statistics being so high, it is easier for women to break the stereotypical household image and get involved in politics. Political careers cannot stem without experience in related fields. When women pursue jobs in law, business or other politically backed careers, it opens up the door of opportunity. With proper knowledge and experience in these certain careers, they gain the credibility it takes to get into politics. It also enables them to be more aware of issues that affect them. Most women enter into politics to fix a problem that is interfering with their life, so competing in the workforce is a great way to discover the matter of contention. When pursuing a career, women spend less time with their family; so when they decide to enter politics they tend to spend even less time with them. Many feel like mixing children with politics is a bad idea. Between their social and work life, politics just does not seem plausible because they feel like they already have to balance too much in their life. According to Madeline Kunin, the first female governor of Vermont, the key to this is learning to balance ones time
adequately. Since the time spent might be less, the key she says is to make the time more meaningful-quality not quantity. Depending on the family income sometimes it is also useful to hire someone to do the cooking or the cleaning according to Kunin (24). A big step in the empowerment of women is the invention of the birth control pill. Prior to the 1960â€™s, it was not always womenâ€™s option whether or not to have kids. The invention of the birth control pill increased this decision tremendously. Having the option of controlling the chances of getting pregnant, gave women a substantial amount of power over their personal life. Now women who do not want kids, but do want a chance in politics do not have to stress out over the chance of getting pregnant. Women do not have the option of doing this in many third world countries. Not only is the pill not available, but women do not have enough say over their own bodies (because they are considered their husbands property) to make a decision like that.So even though maternal instincts sometimes get in the way of pursuing political careers, the most effective way to overcome this is to work for a successful career, manage time appropriately, and use birth control pills if kids are not in the plan. Another large barrier women face is being financially sufficient. This is an issue that occurs long before even thinking about entering office. College is an extremely expensive form of higher education that is not always applicable to everyone, particularly Ivy League schools such as Harvard or Yale. So decades ago when financial aid was not as available as it is now, the lower class and some members of the middle class were unable to even consider college. It was especially considered wasted money if the college educated daughter was going to end up as a jobless housewife. Now with financial aid being so accessible, it makes furthering education a lot more feasible. Not all countries are as lineate with loans as the U.S. In a lot of African countries there is just not enough money to give to students. Many kids are lucky if they have
any education at all. It is almost imperative that a woman come from an elitist family if she wants to even consider attending college. When deciding to run for office, a woman has many financial aspects to look at. If it is for a very big position that will require around the clock work, she must decide if she has enough money stored away to put her paying job on hold. By saving in advance it helps relieve some of the stress. If she is married it definitely helps if her partner has a big, steady income. Tansu Ciller, former prime minister of Turkey, had a successful career before entering politics so she was able to save money. Her husband was also financially successful so running for office did not effect her bank account. Although many politicians come from elite, wealthy families some politicians are just regular middle class citizens. So once a woman decides that she will make the jump to run for office the most expensive problem occurs: campaigning. Some cities and states aid in the financial aspect, but it usually only applies if the candidate is one of the leading mates. This is difficult for women because it is harder to have a fighting chance as a female. Organizations like Emilyâ€™s List are extremely helpful. Once a women candidate wins this groups approval, the group will help fund their cause. So even though raising money is difficult, the best way to get through it successfully is to save money, having a financially supportive spouse, and winning over organizations such as Emilyâ€™s List. In many third world countries, campaigning does not take nearly as much money as it does in America. In some poor Indian countries where TVâ€™s are not a mandatory household item, making commercials are not necessary. Or in parts of Swaziland where the literacy rates are low, writing long newspaper ads is not particularly needed.
Another, more personal issue, that women face when running for politics is their morals. Many women view politics as a dirty job. Not only do they want to stay disassociated with a corrupt business, but they also do not want their families exposed to that type of lifestyle. While being associated with something so dishonest, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez said you must look at “the fact that you can wake up every morning and think that you can change the world.” By thinking about politics more optimistically and weighing the good over the bad, enables many women to achieve happiness within the government (22). Another big issue that conflicts with female’s morals is the public scrutiny and how this will affect their family. Mothers do not want their choices to negatively affect their family. Hilary Clinton once said that “Politics is not for the faint of heart.” In order to be in this business, females have to be able to grow thick skin so they are no so easily offended by the critical chaos surrounding their profession (20). One woman who did not care about public scrutiny and scandal is Tansu Ciller of Turkey. Throughout her entire political career she was involved in scandal after scandal. She had enough confidence that fooled many people at the beginning of her career because she was very convincing in her manipulation. Confidence is something that Ciller had that unfortunately many positive female politicians lack. After being defeated many women want to give up because they take the loss as a personal attack. Kunin believes the best way to get over this is to mourn and then move on. She compares it to having a baby: “I experienced something similar to the pangs of childbirth; I forgot the pain as soon as I was given the baby to hold” (32). Female politicians have to overcome motherhood, money, and moral dilemmas in order to achieve political excellence. By working outside of the home, women are able to gain experience and become exposed to issues in their area. They are also able to earn and save
money for political campaigns. Even though losing is no fun, sometimes it builds a thicker skin which is needed for the sometimes nasty world of politics. Women have to undergo much more than men in the political world, but there is not stopping us now.
Work Cited Kunin, Madeline. Pearls, Politics, and Power. Chelsea Green Publishing Company: Vermont. 2008.