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Can a Woman Be President? Rick Santorum Campaign Staffer Says No

We need to own up to the fact that we’re still grappling with the issue of gender as a nation. The United States loves to point to its so-called "progressive" stance on the question of gender, often criticizing other countries for their repressive and draconian treatment of women, but this latest brouhaha over an email from one of Rick Santorum’s staffer questioning whether women belong in leadership roles just proves how contentious the issue remains to be.

The Des Moines Register reported a few days ago that Jamie Johnson, the candidate's Iowa Coalitions direction sent an email this summer that asked, “Is it God’s highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will … to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?”

The leaking of that e-mail prompted a response from Michele Bachmann’s faith outreach coordinator who said this was proof that sexism was one of the reasons Bachmann had a hard time winning the caucus there.

Bachmann herself claims she is anything but a feminist, preferring to call herself pro-woman and pro-man, which in itself shows how complicated the issue remains to be.

There have long been accusations that conservatives’ struggle over the gender issue led to Bachmann’s downfall in Iowa (she made a dismal showing in the Caucus), despite winning a straw poll just months earlier. While that most likely is not the sole reason for her failed candidacy, we must admit that the gender question is one that is not confined to conservatives. We only have to look back to Hillary Clinton’s run for the Democratic nomination four years ago.

I’m not exactly a hard-line feminist, but ever since Hillary Clinton’s “tear drop” in New Hampshire, it has been clear that a conversation about gender in this country is long overdue, despite the fact that the first woman was elected to Congress in 1917. In this age of political correctness, we’re afraid to conquer the tough and challenging issues, particularly on the social side. Right, or wrong, we have to thank the Republicans for at least putting the issues out there that many Americans think but are afraid to question in fear of being deemed one of those 'isms. 

As a country, we need to have a good conversation about the gender question, whether its politically correct or not. We need to grapple with questions of whether women are more emotional, should pregnant women lead, and the other issues that are mentioned only in private. On top of that, it seems that we then blame the crazy conservative extremists for being evil, sexist, and the such, when, in reality, it’s both sides of the debate that are grappling with the issue.

I’ve never felt so divided over the issue of gender until long time activist Gloria Steinem wrote the much-discussed New York Times article articulating the gender problem (many say throwing race under the bus) in the 2008 presidential elections. While it sparked a venomous conversation over gender versus race, it failed to actually do what I believe was much of its intent, to enable us to talk about how hard women still have it in this country.

So perhaps, instead of starting a debate about what passages say what in the Bible, and why we shouldn’t care about anything Bachmann’s folk have beef with, maybe we can get to the bottom line and finally talk about the real problems and concerns we have with women in this country, and hash them out in a more productive way. Let’s not use the Bible, God, and politics as a cover for what we really should be talking about: gender equality.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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