Following the Democratic Convention in July, Zach Beauchamp wrote an article for Vox outlining the impact a female president can have on the descriptive representation of women around the world. While I’m not questioning the historical significance of having the first female nominee for president from a major party, Beauchamp’s analysis of the global significance of a Hillary Clinton presidency (assuming she wins the general election in November) seems to overstate the role of US leadership when it comes to the representation of women. Why assume that young girls growing up around the world are looking up to Hillary Clinton, and not one of the over 50 women that have preceded her as heads of state?
When it comes to gender equality, the US can hardly claim leadership on any measure. 17 countries, most of them European, allowed women to serve in combat roles in the military before the Pentagon lifted its ban in 2013. And don’t even get me started on paid maternity leave, or representation in national legislatures.
While the glass ceiling is certainly still an obstacle to women seeking high political offices, and even more so in states with nuclear capabilities, I find it extremely US-centric to Suppose young girls “around the world” will look to Hillary Clinton as an example of female leadership. Many of these girls already have female role models. They’re called Sirivamo Bandaranaike, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and Angela Merkel.
The world has a shortage of female leaders, but let’s not pretend the US is really filling that void.