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Monday, February 13, 2017

Next Hope for America's First Female President?

When Hillary Clinton's quest to smash the glass ceiling of the Presidency failed last year, quite a few were already wondering where America's first female president was going to come from now. The US stands alone among its peers in never having had a female leader now, with the UK, Canada, Australia and NZ all having had female heads of state.

I remember J.K. Rowling being quite optimistic about that it would only be a matter of time. And she had reason to be optimistic: her own country is now on its second female prime minister.

But perhaps we should think about it another way: maybe we should stop deliberately hoping for a female President, and let it occur naturally. Perhaps the reason why the UK was able to have a second female prime minsiter without much fuss was because nobody, including women, cared too much about it. Here is my theory: after the reign of Thatcher in the 1980s, British progressives largely forgot about wishing for another female prime minister, and British conservatives learnt that female prime ministers may actually serve them well too. Much of the UK hence became 'neutral' about the gender of their leader ever since. And this neutrality has helped, in the long run.

After all, the recent history of female leaders and potential leaders has shown that playing the 'gender card' is a liability at the ballot box. Successful and popular female leaders like UK Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are not known to play the gender card. On the other hand, the gender card has arguably poisoned the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, both who were known to champion their feminist credentials heavily.

I'm not saying that it's not important to stand up for our feminist values. But in politics, strategy is everything, and apperently de-emphasizing the gender aspect gets more votes.