I was starting to have hope that Americans were finally riding the feminist wave. The U.S. has several women in higher office and Hillary Clinton was a viable candidate for the presidency in 2008. Even Sarah Palin, as embarrassing as she is to my gender, has managed to take a certain lead in the political arena. Yet why, after all these advancements, are women still expected to conform to some antiquated notion of what a woman in power is supposed to look like?
Tough, unemotional, severe, uncompromising. The list goes on. Why must a female politician be a masculine, uncaring brute while her male counterparts are allowed to tear up, whimper and all-out sob at the podium with nothing more than a congratulatory pat on the back for having feelings?
Case in point, Time Magazine’s November 15th article on John Boehner. First, we are expected to cozy up to Boehner’s deep, dark tan and likening to a slightly older John F. Kennedy. Then we are supposed to thank our lucky stars that the man knows how to cry.
“You can tell a lot about a man from his tears, and U.S. House Speaker-to-be John Boehner has always been a weeper. He cried on the House floor while defending the Wall Street bailout and once choked up during a partisan speech accusing Democrats of abandoning the troops in Iraq. But he also used to bawl every year during the fundraisers he co-chaired with his friend Ted Kennedy for cash-strapped Catholic schools. “John’s got the biggest heart in the House,” says Republican conference boss Mike Pence, who lost a leadership election to Boehner in 2006. “My preacher used to say, ‘When the eyes leak, the head won’t swell.”
Now, can you imagine if, say, Hillary Clinton opened herself up to this type of emotional bearing-all? The few times Hillary has showed her feelings on the political stage, it has cost her. She was described as “weak” and many doubted her abilities to handle all the tough decisions that come with a job in politics. While male politicians are rewarded for showing emotion, women are penalized and only praised for expressing uber-masculine traits.
A good example is in the same Time magazine issue, where the Arts section has a special piece on Sarah Palin’s upcoming reality TV show. Among the half dozen pictures are shots of Palin doing the following: Holding a hunting rifle. Driving a four-wheeler. Mounting a log with a chainsaw in hand. Are we supposed to believe that the only way to take this woman seriously is when she is “acting like a man?”
The day we can say that we have reached gender equality is the day when a woman is allowed to dress as femininely as she desires and openly weep during a campaign rally, without being judged for abusing her sexual prowess or lacking emotional stability. Or when a man is not applauded for tearing up over the thousands of civilians killed in a war abroad — not because it isn’t incredibly sad, but because crying is merited by any human being in these horrible circumstances. Until we embrace emotional outpouring as a human condition and not a gender condition, we just aren’t there yet.
And please, for the love of God, someone take that chainsaw away from Sarah Palin. Nothing good can come from that.