This is the Wrong Presidential Debate
The 2008 race for president has begun, and many professional pundits are already fixated on the wrong debate: Are Americans ready to elect a woman as president?
Of course we are.
This country's numerous current and former female governors prove women knocked down that perception barrier years ago.
Excellent progress. Yet the test of just how far women have come in society isn't a test for those who will vote in 2008. It will be a test for the female candidates themselves, a test that must be administered by a media cadre willing to reject political correctness and push for an answer to this question: Are you, Madame Candidate, ready to assertively reject support that accrues to your candidacy simply because you're a woman?
Anything less than a total rejection of gender-based preference besmirches the legacy of the courageous women who pioneered the women's rights movement -- women who lived in a time, now a generation behind us, when systemic discrimination and a lack of full opportunity for women was not only real, but commonplace.
That unfairness ended years ago via the courts and social movements. Problem is, way too many women don't want to acknowledge it, politicians included. The benefits of accepting the "I'm a woman so we all know life hasn't been fair to me" label are just too great. Campaign strategists say being a woman is typically worth a couple of percentage points in a political race.
Despite that edge, some women continue to believe a brick wall stands between a woman and the Oval Office. Take, for example, the nonpartisan North Carolina group "Woman for President 2008."
"We wanted to reach out to North Carolina women to create a vision and an idea and support," the group's leader, Mary Klenz, told The News & Record of Greensboro in a Nov. 5 story.
Klenz, and other likeminded women, believe a woman will bring a unique perspective to the White House -- a perspective a man can't deliver. Klenz, however, isn't ready to bestow that same compliment and value upon men. Yet common sense tells us both men and women have unique traits and a special impact.
By failing to acknowledge the equally valuable and distinct contributions of the sexes, these well-intentioned gender-based efforts veer off track. Whether the goal is to put an experienced woman in the White House, or a young girl on a football team, there is a simple but indisputable fact that can't be ignored: Men and women have clear physical and psychological differences, and society benefits from both.
Believing that women are superior to men, or that women have more virtue and less vice than men, is just as discriminatory as believing women can't handle being president. The question is: When will more women admit it?
I hope it occurs at the ballot box in 2008. When women cast a gender-blind vote for president, and don't succumb to a politically correct version of gender bias, we'll know we've truly come a long way.
That's when women's rights pioneers will rest easy knowing their work, sacrifice, and successes haven't been trivialized by the women of succeeding generations.
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