We Need More Smart Women Running in 2012

With all the hype about Michele Bachmann in the 2012 election and Sarah Palin’s nasty habit of showing up on a bus everywhere she’s not needed, women in politics have surpassed being a hot topic and are now expected to make a splash in American politics. Especially in this election cycle, a trending question is “Shouldn’t there be more women running?”

Yes and no. More qualified, competent, and respected women should be running, not just women. More than simply desiring female candidates, we should want a candidate who can get the job done. A person’s vote should always boil down to capability, not gender, because that in itself is sexism. But the thing about women running for office – especially ideal female candidates – is that the political world is brutal to women. Moreover, sexism is a major obstacle.

A third of women reported that they were discouraged from running for office because of their gender, and if they do decide to run, the public is especially critical of physical appearances, making it more difficult for female candidates to be judged based on merit rather than looks.

Discrimination is discouraging, and it is a major reason most women feel as though they can’t run for office. At some point, however, enough is enough. There is a need for more qualified, competent, respected women in the political world and discrimination is going to have to be fought to achieve that. Women are just as important as men in these elections as they could offer a different perspective on important political issues and they would be invaluable role models for young women. It would benefit the gender equality movement, proving that we’re all capable of being leaders.

There should be a push to get women to run for office, and the more women become a commonplace in elections, the more sexism can be fought in the political world. Sexism exists only to impede, and the best way to combat that is to walk right over it. Women must actively serve in politics to speak for the interests of all people and represent issues that may have gone unstressed. The more capable they are at doing this, the better candidate they will be.

So yes, there should be more women running in these elections, but while we want more women to run, we should also continue to work to break down barriers and elect politicians based not on gender, but on their merit and qualifications. Electing based on capability ultimately serves to fight sexism as it allows women to run and be elected because they deserve it, not because of their gender. Similarly, women should run in elections because they believe they have something to offer, like creative solutions to our nation’s problems, not because they have xx chromosomes.

As a woman, I have a dream that I’ll be able to witness the first female president, elected for her brains not her gender. It is not a far-fetched dream by urging competent women to run, we ultimately gain a much needed, fresh perspective.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons