Voters are deciding which presidential candidate to choose: a man or a man in either of the dominant political parties — unless they write in another name.
With only two weeks left until election day for the new U.S. president, political science experts on campus discuss why there hasn’t been a woman on a major ticket.
Rebecca Deen and Victoria Farrar-Myers, political science assistant professors, both said one reason may have something to do with the Pipeline Theory.
The theory states that because women have only begun to reach out in the past 20 to 30 years in terms of offices held prior to the presidential level, it’s taken a while for women to funnel the pipeline into positions that would make them potential candidates, Deen said.
Those positions include governor, mayor, members of Congress and other statewide offices. Instead, Deen said, women are taking on more local roles in politics.
“Often times, women will cite that the biggest reason they get involved in politics is because they’re mad about something,” she said. “They’re frustrated because their kids’ schools aren’t being operated properly, or they’re frustrated that their local government isn’t paying attention to a certain issue or crime or infrastructure.”
Because of this, women tend not to go higher than their male counterparts because they will seek out different levels of office at rates different than men, she said.
Farrar-Myers and Deen said that a second reason is previous tradition and gender experience. Deen said if someone looks at the way people live at home, even if there is a husband and wife both working, women are often still tending to their homes more than men.
“If this is true for women generally, that’s probably also true for women who are aspiring in politics,” Deen said.
Also, Farrar-Myers said most of the previous presidents have been white, male Protestants.
“This is the same thing JFK went through when he was the first Catholic president,” Farrar-Myers said. “Certainly, it was the same type of thing President Barack Obama faced when he was the first African-American running. It’s like Hillary Clinton said, ‘I made 8 million cracks in the ceiling, I just wasn’t able to get through that last one.’ ”
Farrar-Myers said the 2008 election showed women can be a part of presidential political process.
“People tried on the idea of a woman president, and I think that now they’re more open to it today,” Farrar-Myers said.
Another possible reason could have to do with the way candidates are treated by media, Deen said.
“There’s a great example of this in the 2008 election in both the democratic primary level and the general election,” Deen said. “If you compare the way media covered Sen. Clinton and Gov. Palin, both of them experienced a great deal of sexism. They really hounded on Sen. Clinton for not being sensitive enough, and if you Google Palin, you can see images of her as hyper-sexualized, and they talk about her appearance.”
Cokie Roberts, a political commentator for ABC News who spoke at the Maverick Speaker Series this year, said the reason there hasn’t been a female president is simply because there hasn’t been the right person at the right time. And sometimes, that’s just a matter of luck, she said.
“Hillary Clinton might have been elected president four years ago had she not been running against a very attractive, charismatic, young, first-time African-American candidate,” she said. ”So, you know, that was the luck of the draw, in one way. But it is also true that the presidential system makes it more difficult than the parliamentary system.”
Roberts continued to say, “The places where women have been heads of state are, by and large, places where [with] the parliamentary system, you become the head of your party and your party gets elected. And that’s an easier vote than the very singular vote that we have for the president of the U.S., and I think that that’s a big part of it.”
Whatever the reason, Farrar-Myers said women today are building credibility in politics and are now facing the same obstacles about being president than others before them have encountered.
“The same questions being asked about a woman being president were being asked whether that could happen when we were divided early on, on the issue of slavery,” Farrar-Myers said. “And here we’ve had a president who was able to break that barrier.”