What Madame President means


By: Claire Dinshaw ’17

Madame President.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sort of rolls off the tongue. But it’s a term that has never been used before, or at least not in America.

That could all change on November 8 if Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes the first female president of the United States of America.

Kevin D. Williamson, a columnist for the National Review, penned a scalding op-ed about the uselessness of this achievement, stating, “If your daughter didn’t already know that she could grow up and make of her life whatever her dreams and abilities allow, and learned otherwise only upon seeing a dreadful politician take the next step in her dreadful career, that isn’t a failure of a patriarchal society. You’re just a bad father.”

Unfortunately, Williamson is not alone. Most people seem to take for granted that a women will, one day, be president of the United States of America. For the most part, I am in agreement. But the part of that phrase that worries me the most is “one day.” As far as I am concerned, when it comes to equality in the White House, tomorrow is not soon enough.

It is true that, due to the work of my grandmother and mother, I grew up in a nation that would hire me (although not at a fair wage) and allow me a vote on election day. But the residue damage from years of severe gender inequality is far from healed.

America, with only 20 female senators and 84 congresspeople, ranks 97th globally when it comes to percentage of women in the legislature. Beyond this, America fails to fall among the sixty-three nations that have already elected a female president. This puts all American girls at a disadvantage.

If you ever read an American history textbook, you would notice presidents are referred to by masculine pronouns only. If you ever read federal laws, you would notice presidents are referred to by masculine pronouns only. If you ever read the Constitution, you would notice women are never once specifically mentioned as being entirely equal to their male counterparts.

This election is so much larger than Hillary Clinton; it is about every single American woman, alive and past, getting a taste of the equality they were promised upon our nation’s founding.

If Clinton wins this election, nearly every single federal law and textbook will become outdated. If Clinton wins this election, the perception of the presidency could change for good. If Clinton wins this election, an entire generation of children will be more familiar with a woman commanding our nation than a man. If Clinton wins this election, people will slowly become accustomed to a woman having power, influence. If Clinton wins this election, then we do not have to wait for “one day” to inch one-step closer to equality.

Over 20 years ago, a T-shirt that read “Someday a woman will be president,” was pulled from the shelves of Walmart after customers complained it insulted “family values.”

We have come a long way from that day, but not far enough.

So, let’s practice. Say it one more time.

“Madame President.”