Clearly, Feminism is impacting this year’s election cycle. I appreciate and share a popular desire to see strong female role models in our culture. There are few roles that would be as powerful as a female President. However, I have struggled to support Clinton. For me, Sander, her challenger for the Democratic nomination, is clearly the better candidate due to his authenticity, consistent record, and better representation of the people’s concerns. Meanwhile, I felt a sense of loss because I too want a strong female role model for our youth.
My Masters studies a couple of years ago focused on the global development sector. We often studied a wide variety of programs designed to transform the lives of women around the world. In one such working group, as we were discussing empowering women, I asked what role we were leaving for men and what guidance we were giving them to adjust? There was a moment of awkward surprise as everyone acknowledged that nobody had really considered that part of the paradigm at all. It is my personal belief that this is also the case here at home. I believe modern American men, amidst a sea of change, are left in a vacuum of positive role models. In a culture that has drastically changed over the last many decades as a result of the Feminist movement, there exists a void of masculine role models for the current paradigm much less role models for the future paradigms we’d like to reach.
The Bernie and Hillary bid for the Democratic nomination created an environment where a huge discussion around this this play out, and it has been interesting. While some go so far as to call Bernie a sexist for running against Hillary and refusing to drop out until all of the votes are counted, far more people praise him for being a better Feminist than Hillary. Generally, I think the majority of people seem to deeply respect Sanders. In fact, I have heard a lot of concern from people who are deeply torn between who they considered to be a better candidate and their strong desire to see a woman as President.
For those of us who do view Bernie as exceptional, more specifically, for those Feminists who are torn between what a great role model Bernie is versus the powerful message of a female President – I have a question that has recently started haunting me. When you consider all of our countries gender issues, when you reflect on what you believe are the roots to our problems, what kind of role model do you feel would do more good for our country? A role model for women, a female President with a remarkably high disapproval rating? Or, and this is a radical notion, a feminist role model for men, a male President who exhibits authentic characteristics of love, respect, and support for women? In today’s world, who is more in need of positive role models for a future paradigm of equality, men or women? And, finally, did we become so focused on the ideal of a female role model that we’ve completely missed the opportunity to provide men with an revolutionary role model?