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How excited should we Canadian women be about the possibility of Hilary Clinton becoming president of the United States?
Not so much.
The idea of a first female president sounds intriguing, at first thought, perhaps even inspiring. But then we were first with a female prime minister, even if Kim Campbell was only in power for four-and-a-half months back in 1993.
The point I want to make about Hillary Clinton is this: Is it really about women who would be gaining acceptance and equality through her winning the U.S. election? Or is her husband Bill trying to work his way back into the White House by “helping” her campaign because they, the Clintons, believe it’s the only way to win?
Many Americans seem comfortable with the characters and quirks they know, rather than new ones — hence, George W. Bush the son, not long after George Bush the father. And that could well be the case with Hillary and Bill, the couple who appear willing to do almost anything to be in power, including staying attached at the hip.
But for women, I can understand that it’s hard not to want to see this strong, determined woman — herself a daughter, wife and mother — win the highest position in her country, if only to make history and open the door for others.
My question, however, is this: If she’s riding on the charisma of her still-popular hubby, and promoting the image of a two-for-one bargain, is that really the way we women want to get ahead? By allowing him to do her dirty work, is she promoting herself as someone, male or female, who can take charge and run a country?
Again, not so much.
Now what about Michelle? That’s Michelle Obama, also a strong, determined woman, and an Ivy League educated lawyer like Hillary, (Harvard and Yale, respectively). She’s the wife of Hillary Clinton’s rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Barack Obama, and her husband would surely make stunning history if he were to become the first African-American president of the United States.
Michelle would clearly make an impressive first lady. But no one is thinking that a vote for Obama is a vote for his wife. If he wins, it’s purely on his merit, which has to be extraordinary to finally surmount America’s enduring and deep-rooted racial divide.
So even though we Canadian women won’t be voting in this fascinating election, we can watch with great interest. Though our neighbour isn’t the best-loved player on the planet, America is still a superpower, and we cannot help but be affected by its economy and its politics to some extent.
Before we tell ourselves that Hillary Clinton is the symbol for women’s leadership, let’s think twice. We may never know if she’s a true leader in her own right. But if Obama wins, we have to believe he made it on his own, against bigger odds.