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Rebecca Sive

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Why Do Women Run for Office? Because They Are All Feminists

Posted: 06/30/11 01:17 PM ET

In this week when Michele Bachmann announced her presidential candidacy; Sarah Palin didn't deny presidential ambitions; and Christine LaGarde became the first female president of the World Bank, it strikes me that it's worth considering why women, of every kind, run for significant public office.

In recent months, several answers to this question have been given.

First, LaGarde. Last winter, LaGarde said:

Gender-dominated environments are not good...In gender-dominated environments, men have a tendency to... show how hairy chested they are, compared with the man who's sitting next to them. I honestly think that there should never be too much testosterone in one room.

Then, there is Michele Bachmann, who has talked of being called (by God) to run for president.

And last, there is Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Woman and Politics at Rutgers University, who says women seek public office because "women run to do something, men run to be somebody."

Continuing, Walsh said: "Women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some change they want to make, some issue that is a priority for them... men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path."

But could the real reason be that these women run because they are all feminists?

Could the real reason be that these women seeking public office want what so-called feminists have sought for themselves, and for all women, for decades: power, as well as empowerment?

A terrific piece published by CNN this week, entitled: "Michele Bachmann, evangelical feminist?" got me to thinking.

Girl, was I intrigued by that headline: I clicked it.

According to one of the author's sources, "...evangelicals are not traditionally the innovators in gender roles...but they also don't trail too far behind...."

Another source noted "...(the) lack of fear (of evangelical women) going into top positions of power is new and astonishing and exciting for this segment of the population."

And here is the clincher-comment: According to the post's author, two decades ago Elizabeth Dole started this trend of power-seeking evangelical feminism, not because there is a philosophy of "evangelical feminism" that differs from any other feminist philosophy (see above re "going into positions of power"), but because she happened to both be a feminist and "...also Christian with strong connections to the evangelical world."

The bottom line here? It seems the common denominator of feminism is not a common political philosophy, nor being a Democrat, nor "being called" (by a religious god or political godfather), but the desire to be powerful.

Indeed, whether "called" or not; whether liberal or conservative, male or female, French or American, or whether calling oneself a feminist or not, these women fight to win (for themselves), as well as for equality (for all), just what feminists advocate. They are all feminists.

I love it.

These women who run for president -- say, in recent memory, Hillary Clinton and Michele Bachmann -- also share other life-shaping (and now world-shaping) personal characteristics.

For instance, watching Bachmann run for president, just as hard and smart and tough as her male competition, and, this week, better than her male competitors, confirmed the main lesson of my own experience advising women running for office.

Successful women candidates do what their male competitors do: they battle hard, all ways and always.

Successful women candidates do what other feminists have advocated all women do, what Bachmann and LaGarde did this week: fight to beat the boys.

To make light of; or to obfuscate about, for fear of being impolite or unfeminine; or, worst of all, to ignore the willingness of these women to fight to win -- their assertion of the feminist belief in women's right to be as powerful as men -- is to demean their courage and their willingness to put themselves on the line for others.

And, girl, do we need more of those qualities among today's political leaders. Bring on these women, I say.

Indeed, this weekend, as we celebrate liberty, let us celebrate liberty for all, even if the Founding Fathers didn't.

For, it is only when everyone is at the governance table that we the people, all the people, get life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Fourth of July.


 
 
 

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