I was born in 1979 – the year Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party was elected into power in a landslide victory, making her Britain’s first female Prime Minister. Her term ended in November of 1990, and in the 25 years since then Britain has had exactly zero female Prime Ministers.
When I was a kid growing up in the 80s, I didn’t even know who Margaret Thatcher was, and the president of the US was just some benevolent-looking white guy called Ronald, and then another old white guy called George. The idea of a female president didn’t really enter my mind; in fact the only time I remember thinking about it was when I happened to be watching Popeye one day, and Olive Oyl was singing about all the stuff she’d do if she were president. (I hated Olive Oyl, so it was unlikely I’d have supported her presidential bid.) My sister and I would sometimes play a game where we pretended to be the president’s daughters. But never the actual president. It wasn’t that I didn’t think girls could grow up to be president, but more like it wasn’t even a physical possibility. It’d be like thinking I could grow up to be a spaceship.
I am a reasonably level-headed adult now, of course. I grew up and gained experience and learned things and formed opinions about the world. I know now how radical Olive Oyl’s daydream was.
I am watching this election cycle (and, admittedly, ignoring a lot of it, because otherwise my head will explode and ohmygodnotanotherfuckingdebate) with my eyes covered, nervously peeking out between my fingers, and I’m trying to stifle my fear of Donald Trump actually becoming president with my excitement-mixed-with-anxiety over the thought of actually maybe electing our first female president. And I know that we also had that possibility in 2008, with the same woman, but it felt different then, less urgent. Eight years ago we had the choice between our potential first Black president and our potential first female president, and I was more than happy to concede to the former. It didn’t feel like a loss. I liked Obama; I believed he would be a great president and hopefully do great things. We had time. We would make history and then we could try again. But now it feels, more than ever, like this is our last good shot for a very long time. Oh, how naive we were in 2008! It feels like America has gotten more hostile, more misogynist, and that a lot of people in charge won’t be happy until we’re all back at home making babies and sandwiches. It feels like there is so much more at stake.
And this election cycle feels much more negative to me somehow, and it’s not just because of the standard-issue Hillary Hate that’s being trotted out. Hillary Clinton is probably the most hated woman in Washington. It’s cool to hate her. We’re all used to it. But I’ve read enough headlines and think pieces and seen enough memes in my Facebook feed to know that there’s a lot of in-fighting going on amongst Liberals and feminists alike, and one of the messages I keep hearing loudest basically boils down to ‘How can you vote for Stupid Evil Hillary and her Stupid Evil Vagina when you can instead vote for Revolution?’
And I say that electing a female president is a revolution.
I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that part of the reason I support Hillary is because she’s a woman, and I want to see a woman elected president. I want it so badly that just thinking about it and how amazing that would be makes me teary-eyed. We’ve been waiting 240 years and it’s about fucking time already. But I do not want a Sarah Palin or a Carly Fiorina. I want a strong, qualified, experienced, capable and unabashedly feminist woman who supports and will fight for issues that are important to me and to other women I love and care about, who can get shit done and be a great president, and I think Hillary Clinton is that woman. And getting elected isn’t even the end of it, because the first female president will also have to serve as the One Example for All Her Gender, to prove beyond all doubt that this wasn’t a stupid idea and that women really can do this whole ‘president’ thing. She will face untold amounts of adversity; will have every decision, every waver of her voice, every motherfucking pantsuit and hair style choice scrutinised; will have so much mud and bullshit slung at her and will have to get up and scrape it off and endure it all again the next day. Remember when Cersei had to do the ‘Shame’ walk through the streets of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones (erm… spoilers)? It’ll be like that. For four years (maybe eight if she’s lucky). She will need the heart and stomach of a king. Much has already been written about all the crap Hillary has put up with since she became a public figure, and which she continues to put up with now, and in fact voluntarily submits herself to because she wants to be president and she knows this is the price of admission. She’s incredibly brave. She’s tough as nails. Who better to undergo the trial-by-fire of being the first female president? If not her, who? If not now, when?
Twenty-five years since Britain had its first and only female Prime Minister, and I can’t help but think that part of that is because Maggie Thatcher really fucked up the test (as well as the country), and – if only subconsciously – people are terrified of having another crazy lady in a leadership position.
I am nearly 37 years old, the planets have aligned and in 2016 I feel like this is the closest we’ve ever come – there is the very real possibility that it could finally happen, and if it doesn’t I’ll be heartbroken. And I want to be optimistic, to hope against hope that if it doesn’t happen now then it will happen soon, that we really have made millions of cracks in that glass ceiling, that I won’t have to wait another 37 years for the possibility. But experience and history tell me that I shouldn’t hold my breath.