Women in every part of the world face several obstacles in participating in politics. More often, it is as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, lack of access to health care and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women. Generally, there is an assumption that women’s proper sphere is ‘’private’’ sphere which is associated with family and the home. This assumption curtails women from entering the political arena despite their proven abilities as leaders and agents of change.
Gender discrimination, constituted by culture, belief and negative construct, is the most stringent tool of containment of women in politics. It is the roadblock to women’s political engagement and political empowerment. Societies that are highly patriarchal frown at women who indulge in self-promotion of her accomplishments or who try to usurp power. These women are labeled as political interlopers, violators of gender norms or egocentric.
Nevertheless, individual women have overcome these obstacles with great acclaim. Some of them are being politically elected to be heads of state, or holder of public offices in government. In examining women’s participation in political life, the leading roles of Ms. Tsai Ing-wen and Mrs. Hilary Clinton are discussed in this groundbreaking work. This article will bring an odd truth to light by exposing the discrimination suffered by these women in their bid to break into the stereotyped politics of their society. The article will touch on their political successes, struggles, and overwhelming contributions. It will conclude by using their living history as literature for upcoming political women to adopt.
Ms. Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan President elect in a widely held election in January, 2016, becoming the first woman to win the office. She’s the first female head of state of Taiwan, and the second female head of state in East Asia after the current President of South Korea. Ms. Tsai- a fifty-nine year old unmarried professor with no children- rose to the highest political hierarchy without any relation to a political family. She is a consummate politician rooted in strategy, and craftiness. Her leadership as chairperson saw Democratic People’s Party to a historic win in the legislative Yuan and presidency.
Ms. Tsai addressing the public
Yet, Tsai was under attack from the male-dominated political establishment on gender-based grounds. The argument was that she lacked credibility to understand the needs of family (a thing she failed to have) and which is seemingly vital to proper governance and building of a morally just society. The social attitude towards Tsai stems, perhaps, from the Confucian values within the Taiwanese society where having a family suggests a moral qualifier to lead good governance. The belief that the sexual life of a presidential candidate has some connection to the individual’s ability to govern as president consequently put Ms. Tsai’s sexuality under attack. She was accused of being a closeted lesbian who is untrue to her body hence, unfit to becoming next president.
On the flip side, Hilary Clinton has a heterosexual family still she experienced gender-based attack not any less. She is the leading figure behind the creation of children’s protection law in US and the advocate for Children and Families but this did not preclude her from being sexually attacked. Right from her days as First Lady and in office, and of course in her presidential campaigns she suffers gender discrimination. Most of her campaigns have less of media coverage compared to her male rival, for instance, after Clinton announced her intent to run in 2007 only 36 newspapers headlined her story compared to Barrack Obama who had 56, and most of the news coverage emphasized more of her physical description and family while silencing her policies and plans
Mrs.Clinton as US Secretary of State
Ms. Falk, a communication professor at John Hopkins University, revealed that women are not giving substantive media coverage compared to their male counterparts and that their political aspirations open them up for ridicule and scrutiny- a thing that could dampen their political career. Hilary Clinton’s political life, for instance, reduced her to a variety of stereotyping on magazines and internet. She suffered sexual humiliation from political cartoonists who described her voice as stringent, crackle and shrill, and subsequently portrayed her as emasculator, radical feminist and the wife the husband wants to get rid of.
Hilary Clinton as subject of sexual humiliation
The tone of stories about women aspiring for political positions is either making references to their emotional strength, age, sexuality or family, omitting their accomplishments and professional titles. Indeed, one will agree that it is ridiculous to presume that a candidate who possesses a family, heterosexuality or certain look will automatically be a good leader and the one who falls short of these attributes, is not. Therefore, Social conservatism within the political discourse must be overcome in order for women to be fully integrated.
Nevertheless, aspiring female politicians need to get tough and demonstrate a high level of endurance so as to get pass this gender discrimination. Doris Chang, an associate professor of women studies at Wichita State University, shared in her writings the key element responsible for Tsai and Hilary’s political success as: strong political will. She described them as women of faith with a persistent spirit; both Hilary and Tsai suffered defeat once in their efforts to seek the presidency. She maintained that ‘’if they fail, then they’ll just try again”. Ms. Flak, et al implores women to focus on building their credibility; never lose sight of their long term goals; and always make tough calls by differentiating between must-do and nice-to-do.