Women, vote for yourselves - no one else will

I don’t like her, and it ain’t the hair. It’s the annoyingly wooden affect, and her obeisance over the years to the demands of the American public that she change her name and hair, but stand by her man. But when I mailed in my absentee ballot for the Democratic primaries several months ago (I’m an American citizen as well as an Australian one) the tic was next to Hilary Clinton’s name, not Barrack Obama’s.

My reason? Simple. She’s a woman and so am I. While Obama (and I admit it’s part of his charm) is a man.

But is voting for another woman – to make partner, win a seat on a board or lead the free world – the right thing to do? I say yes, for now at least, while women remain so woefully under-represented at all levels of power.

Voting patterns in the US Democratic primaries suggest that while 90 per cent of Black Americans – male and female – have supported Obama, Clinton’s support among White women struggles at times to top 50 per cent. White men have been backing other men since the contest began and now, with only one bloke left standing, are tending towards Obama.

In other words, while men vote for men and Blacks for Blacks, American women are taking the high road and voting for the one they believe – regardless of skin colour or pant tackle – will do the best job. And while I’ve yet to hear any condemnation of Black Americans for voting as a bloc to put one of their own into the Oval Office, a startling number of women are scrambling over themselves to show they’d never be so base. Influential talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, for instance, was recently quoted as saying she would “never vote for anyone based on gender or race. I’m voting for Barack Obama…because he is brilliant”. Australian columnist Anita Quiqley has expressed similar indignation that anyone should think she’d be partial to a politician of her own sex.

The upshot of all this is not hard to predict. Men l – despite hand-on-heart protestations of gender-blindness – will continue to help other men into office and, if predications of a Democrat victory in the 2008 election prove correct, Americans may soon have their first Black president.

And women? Well, we’ll just keep tending our small patch of not-all-that-much and living on borrowed glory. Because without the support of other women Hilary, like those who came before her seeking high office, will return home empty-handed.

If we really lived in a gender-blind, equal opportunity world, women’s scanty representation at the top would be easy to explain. It would be because we lacked ambition, or the right stuff. That most of us, most of the time, fail to measure up.

But US voting patterns are only the most recent in a long line of evidence that the world as we know it – in this way and a number of others – isn’t fair. To change it, we need to be among those who are in charge. And to do that, we need to back ourselves.

And that’s why, for now, I think it’s OK for women to vote for women for no other reason than that they are women. After all, if we don’t when other marginalized groups do, we’ll be the only ones coming up chumps.

And because if we can’t bring ourselves to back ourselves, why should any one else?

Publication history

Women, vote for yourselves - no one else will   Sun-Herald (Sydney)