A few days ago I caught myself thinking if a male president’s wife is called the First Lady, will the female president’s husband be called a First Gentleman? What would Bill Clinton have been called if Hillary was elected?
After doing some research, it occurred to me that I am clearly not the only person out there who doesn’t know the answer to my previous question. Apparently there is no certain word to it. Are women that far off from politics that there isn’t even a developed vocabulary? After all nature is conceived as female. Think “Mother Nature”. Literally and metaphorically, women define nature and the world. So why can’t we rule the world?
In 1756 Lydia Chapin Taft became the first legal woman voter in America. She voted in 3 Town Halls with the consent of the electorate. But it took women even longer to gain suffrage: the 19th Amendment didn’t pass until 1920, following a long debate. In eras before Clinton or Kersti Kaljulaid, the very first female president of my own country Estonia, participating in politics was not only nearly impossible for women but was also considered a violation of what it meant to be a woman.
Back in the days one of the big voices against giving women the vote was the National Association OPPOSED to Woman Suffrage. In the 1910s it published a pamphlet explaining why women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, claiming how 90% of women either do not want it, or do not care. The document also included a list of household cleaning tips for women –enough said!
Throughout history the power has been in a man’s hand.
Equalising women with men in a voting booth and decision making meant equalising them in places where women have the upper hand. And no man wants to give up the power. The positive side is that we have come a long way from it.
It is worth pausing to reflect on how women’s participation in politics has changed over the history, but there is a long way to go. As of June 2016, only 2 countries have 50% or more women in parliament: Rwanda with 63.8% and Bolivia with 53.1%. Gender balance in political participation and decision-making is the internationally agreed target. There is established and growing evidence that women’s leadership in political decision-making processes improves them. Women demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through parliamentary women’s caucuses – even in the most politically combative environments – and by championing issues of gender equality, such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws and electoral reform.
As Voltaire said, “I hate women because they always know where things are.” Well don’t hate, you misogynistic Frenchman, but he is right! Women’s brains can map things well and they have an incredible spidey sense. Let’s use that sense in decision-making. Let’s lead the way, women!