Where, oh where, have the womenfolk gone? I may have been spoiled last presidential election, but the 2012 campaign season has been so dudely I can hardly stand it. As far as the big one goes, we’ve got two guys battling another guy, with no women in the picture so far. And honestly, I don’t think Mitt Romney will be the type to pick a woman for his Vice President spot.
Last election was the first I could legally vote in, and I think I was lucky to have come of age at the moment I did. Not only was Hillary Clinton actively campaigning at around this time four years ago, she stood a solid chance. I had never seen in my lifetime a truly viable female candidate. I’m starting to fear that I won’t see one again for a long while, with the War on Women in full effect. Of course, she ended up off the table, and I’ve always thought it was a mistake on President Obama’s part not to scoop her up as VP. Then again, she’s doing a fantastic job where she is now. For the months leading up to the primaries, I saw her face everywhere, this intelligent, motivated woman who actually knew how to play politics and gave a damn about women while doing so. And now? Well, now I might be lucky to see Michelle Bachmann screaming about terrorists.
Then there was Sarah Palin, a woman who has yet to leave us alone. She was picked as John McCain’s running mate in late August of 2008. I remember reading the announcement right before going to a feminist theory class in undergrad. Needless to say, we were horrified. Who was this woman, who seemed to have little public presence and even less meaningful experience? I remember the class listing off the hateful organizations she was a part of and wondering why, when we were finally lucky enough to get a female VP candidate, she had to be like this? My feminist and progressive friends weren’t sure whether to be happy that there was a woman with a good chance of being Second in Command, or upset because she was perpetuating the stereotype of the woman who is too stupid to work in politics.
For all of the sexist, misogynistic vitriol that was spewed that year, I would rather have to deal with it than with nothing at all. There was no escaping the hate from either side, with liberals calling Palin a dumb bimbo and conservatives calling Clinton a ball-busting feminazi. But in this political and social climate, I’m used to it. A lot of us have developed this sort of shell that idiotic, misogynist words can’t penetrate. They may piss us off, and we may work harder for it, but it’s past the point of hurt feeling simply due to desensitization.
The women that we have seen so far have been relegated to the part of wife and mother. Yes, I’m looking at you, Ann Romney. And I’m also looking at Michelle Obama. Michelle has lately been cast as the part of the devoted wife, and she’s playing it well. We might best know her for being an active, fun, compassionate woman with goals and initiatives who legitimately cares about health and fitness. In the last few months, however, we’ve seen less of that. I’m not suggesting that she’s forgotten her issues, but lately she appears to be far more focused on keeping the White House for a few more years. It seems off for me that such an independent, progressive woman has been shoved back into the role of supportive, dutiful wife serving her husband’s needs. I’m not saying that’s what she is, but it’s the way she’s being represented. As for Ann Romney, we expect her to play that role. As a conservative, religious woman, we expect her sole purpose in this election to be to support, defend, and elevate her husband. But just because that’s what we expect her to do doesn’t mean that I, or other feminists, are happy with it just because she’s conservative. Hell, I’d love to see a reasonable, intelligent conservative woman. Sadly, most of the ones we have are being voted out in droves. The rest are either intelligent and unreasonable or unintelligent and only a little reasonable (if you squint and tilt your head some).
So where are all the women? Back to where they were: behind the scenes. We’ve gone from having two prominent women at the forefront of our last presidential election to having zero. Back to square one, I guess. And here I was, all hopeful because of ’08! I’m still hopeful for 2016 (I’m still looking at you, Secretary Clinton), and I look forward to what it will bring. Now is not 2016, however, and as of yet there are no women in this election doing anything but holding their husbands’ hands and smiling prettily. We’ve been pushed back yet again, and I wish I was surprised. So here we sit, maybe campaigning and writing letters and signing up voters, and doing it all in the back room without any recognition. Don’t tell me the War on Women isn’t real, because we see it everywhere. But hey, at least Palin didn’t run!