I am part of a generation raised to believe that women could do anything men could do. Girls could play baseball or be a doctor or an engineer- gender was not a factor for girls my age in deciding what careers to pursue or what sports to play. However, as a kid, I just accepted the fact that no woman had ever been president and quietly assumed it would never happen. The president was a man- as a child, I just thought that was how it would always be. Now, things have changed. Not only politically, but in my personal life. I have a daughter of my own and she has asked me why a woman has never been president. To be honest, I don’t know how to explain it to her but I am hoping with all of my heart that it changes very soon.
My daughter’s second grade class has been discussing the presidents. She came home from school one day recently and while we were watching our after-school cartoons, she turned to me and said “Did you know America has never had a woman as president?” I told her I was aware of that and reminded her of Hillary Clinton. We had talked previously about the position Clinton held in the White House and how great it was that a woman had done that. I told her that Hillary would likely run for president in 2016 and you should have seen her face light up. What followed broke my heart a little. She seemed genuinely upset and confused by the fact that a woman had never been president and wanted to know why.
How do I sum up centuries of history where women were not even a consideration when it came to our elected leadership? How do I explain the reasons? She has only known a life where girls can do everything boys can do- she has no frame of reference for the oppression and limited opportunities generations of women before her have faced. For that, I am of course, grateful. Obviously, we have made a lot of progress in the past century. I am so glad that the idea of a woman not being able to do whatever a man can do is entirely foreign to her. It still doesn’t make it any easier to explain to her why every single president in history has been a man.
My feeble effort to help her understand included an explanation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as she learned about him last month. I reminded her of his fight for racial equality and told her that at various points in history, women have had to fight for equal rights too. I explained that women couldn’t even vote only a few years before her great-grandmothers were born. I told her that we make progress all the time and that Hillary Clinton running for president would be an incredible (and very likely) thing. This satisfied her and she stopped with her questions. For now, at least.
Our country saw it’s first African-American president only seven years ago. That was an amazing step. It is about time a woman be elected president as well. For the sake of my daughter and every other brilliant and hopeful little girl in America who wants to know if they could be president- I hope with every fiber of my being that it happens.