February 9, 2016 — Leave a comment

Crawling across news screens in the United States, for many months already, is a near-constant feed about the upcoming presidential elections. And upcoming means another nine months. All in all a very long gestation, longer even than that of an elephant – about 90 weeks.

Bearing in mind an elephant symbolizes the Republican Party, we have Trump – he of golf-course and wind farm fame in Britain; we have Cruz – he of Cuban American parentage and Canadian birth, and rabid tea-party favourite; we have Rubio, the young but seemingly unloaded gun, also Cuban American; we have Bush, Jeb, ex Floridian governor, son of, and brother of, presidents 41 and 43; and a plethora of other wannabes.

The field of donkeys is less crowded, but then their gestation is only about 56 weeks. Reason enough to be thankful for the Democratic Party, who unlike the elephants on the stage, have only recently ramped up their nomination process. The main contenders are Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I can’t help feeling it would’ve been a more entertaining list had Vice President Biden given a nod.

Now Mr Sanders is doing rather well. Rather better than many expected. Particularly amongst young women voters. And that is what has upset some of the standard bearers for women’s progress and equality in this country. People like Gloria Steinem, journalist and ardent activist for women’s equality, and Madeleine Albright, first woman to be US Secretary of State. I have a great deal of respect for both, and have no doubt they have faced much antipathy in their endeavours and climbs to the top of their respective poles. However haranguing the young women of today is not the way to gain followers for their chosen nominee, Hillary Clinton.

There might well be “a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” as Ms Albright said. I’m inclined to agree with her, when talking about women like Hortensia “Tencha” Medeles, the Houston madam and sex trafficker. http://my.telegraph.co.uk/applegidley/expatapple/639/women-selling-women/ But not when talking about young women supporting a man running for the highest office in the land.

Ms Albright at least did not go so far as Ms Steinem who, on Bill Maher’s talk show, insulted Sanders’ supporters, lumping many in the foolish young women category by saying, “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” Really? Does Ms Steinen have such a low opinion of young women today?

Both Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinen, and Hillary Clinton for that matter, have without doubt advanced women’s equality in this country, shattering many a ceiling, but that does not give them cause or right to denounce anyone. A young friend of mine, Laura Chapman Osvald, said, “I would prefer to see Albright and Steinem use their status to encourage all women to participate in the election, regardless of whom they support. And while I would love to help elect the first female president, I will do so because I think she is capable, not because she is a woman.”

Isn’t that what equality is all about?

And then I started thinking about women leaders around the world. There have been quite a few, far too many to list, and I’m not counting those born into their positions or those like Elizabeth Domitien of the Central African Republic, who were appointed by despots – in her case, by President-for-Life Bokassa who thought have a female prime minister would give him a fillip in 1974, which happened to be International Women’s Year.

Bona fide women leaders include Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the earliest woman head of state and/or government of ‘modern’ times, leading Ceylon, later Sri Lanka, on three different occasions starting in 1960. Gold Meir, prime minister of Israel was next in 1969, then Lidia Gueiler briefly served as Bolivia’s interim president in 1979. No one though could call the next woman interim – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, 1979 – 1990. There are many more, and whatever one thinks of their politics, these women were, and are, forceful proponents and they did not get to their positions by alienating women in their own country.

The comments of a couple of grumpy old, albeit trailblazing women mustn’t become the elephant in the room. What’s important is to be informed, engaged and determined to vote for whoever appeals most. Let’s hope the young women of America can take a leaf out of Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign of 1828, when the intended slur of being likened to a jackass, was instead turned into an amusing symbol – that of the donkey still proudly adorning election posters of the Democratic Party today.


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