In case you hadn’t heard, the United States is nearing the end of a presidential race. It has been marred by rudeness and lies – far more, it would seem, than most elections. The vitriol spat across our screens comes mainly from a bumptious man intent on denigrating large swathes of the population. Immigrants. Muslims. Women.
Much emphasis has been put on the Democratic nominee being a woman. Somewhat surprising in the enlightened times of 2016. America, accepted by most as the leader of the free world, is dismally behind the arc with regard equality – and not just of the sexes.
Lyse Doucet, the BBC journalist, suggested recently the United States is a “binary country” – a phrase I wish I’d come up with. We are either Republican or Democrat. Man or woman. Gay or straight. Black or white. Pro or anti abortion. Protestant or Muslim. Most of us, though, fall into that vast vat of grey. We have our beliefs but are happy to allow others to have theirs. We are busy ‘getting-on-with-life-the-best-we-can’, and are not particularly vehement about one thing or another until a subject becomes personal.
I was fortunate to be born to a strong woman and a father who considered girls more than vassals, and at a time long after others had fought for the right to vote. The Pill was available, and, on the whole, greater encouragement was being given to non-traditional roles for women. In short, I have not had to fight for my basic rights, something for which I am very grateful.
But I am getting tired of hearing about glass ceilings. America is so far behind the trail with regard women in power in politics, it is risible. In modern times, lets say from 1960, there have been 58 countries with a female leader – and some of those countries have elected more than one. From developing to developed countries. From patriarchal to matriarchal.
These women have had to be tough – sugar and spice, and all things nice – do not win elections. Which is why I’m tired of seeing comments about Hillary Clinton’s likeability, her pantsuits, her hairstyle, and now her health. Apart from the rather mocking tones of reporters when wannabe presidential hopeful, Rick Perry, took to wearing heavy-rimmed glasses, I can’t remember anyone discussing Romney’s wardrobe or Obama’s hairstyle. Though comments were made about their aloofness.
There is an invidious manner of questioning – the dog at a bone kind – when questions are fired at Clinton, and yet, when the Republican nominee is called out on a proven lie, and the question is answered with the reiteration of that lie, the matter is let rest. One could use the dog analogy again – let sleeping dogs lie. Oops, there’s that word again. Lie.
In the land where freedom of speech is sacrosanct, election buttons and posters spout derogatory filth – Trump that Bitch – kfc special, 2 fat thighs, 2 small breasts, left wing – Life’s a Bitch, Don’t Vote For One – and so on. One wonders what it is that allows people to think this kind of language is acceptable? For anyone to use, let alone our children to see.
There is a lot needing to be fixed in this country (as in most countries) – blame for delays on some issues can be penned firmly in the Congress column – but America is not going to the dogs (when is an analogy overused?) regardless of pronouncements of doom from Mr Trump.
Despite antipathy to the Republican nominee, and for some archaic reason, 52% of white men (Public Religion Research Institute) – a large swing section of the electorate – hold “very unfavorable” views on electing a female president.
I found it hard to believe but spending a delightful hour over coffee with an erudite and forward-thinking man, born and bred in Texas, he confirmed the standpoint, telling me, “Many peers, some of them friends, most highly educated and who hold, or held, high-powered positions, cannot bring themselves to vote for a woman.” And yet this same element of the population feel comfortable when women are in a supporting role, conforming to traditional gender positions – healthcare issues, standing by her man – even as secretaries of state! Neither did these men vote for a black man.
What we really need is a black woman running for president. And winning. Only then would the glass ceiling be well and truly shattered. Only then could America be considered a country of equality – inclusive and not binary.