The female factor in U.S., Korea votes
“For the first time, we had a traffic jam in the women senators’ bathroom; history has been made. There were five women in there. There’s only two stalls,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. Her comment heated up cyberspace last week.
U.S. President Barack Obama was re-elected on Nov. 6, and the coinciding general election produced a number of records in American political history.
The triumphs of women were notable.
Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii is the first Asian-American elected to the Senate, the first U.S. senator born in Japan and the first Buddhist senator. Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate.
Five women won election to the Senate, and women will occupy 20 of the chamber’s 100 seats. It will be the largest proportion ever, making a traffic jam in the women’s bathroom.
In New Hampshire, the governor, two senators and two House representatives are women, making the state’s highest elected positions occupied by females.
U.S. politics may seem open, but the wall had been especially high for women. The 15th Amendment to the Constitution granted voting rights to non-white men in 1870, but it would be 50 more years until women’s suffrage was stipulated in the Constitution.
A women’s bathroom was built just off the House floor only last year.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the target of a number of gender-based attacks during the Democratic presidential primary in 2007. In a debate in Las Vegas, she said, “This pantsuit is asbestos tonight.”
But the consistent and courageous challenges of female politicians have been breaking down the obstacles one after another. And the outcome was this year’s election. The efficiency of women in politics is getting high marks in the United States. As the Democrats and Republicans were arguing over the fiscal deficit, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said that women are “by our nature nurturers and negotiators. We want people to get along, we want to find a solution, we want to move forward. I think sometimes there is a tendency to like the fight for the fight’s sake every once in a while with some of the guys. So I think having more women involved will help.”
However, neither of the two major U.S. parties has ever nominated a woman to run for president. So, Korean women can feel proud to have a woman presidential candidate for a major party.
However, one thing bothers me whenever Park Geun-hye speaks at news conferences. She always says “prepared female president.” She must want to emphasize that she has more experience than the opposition, but the phrase “prepared president” was already used 15 years ago. So she added “female” to distinguish herself. However, a woman president should be the choice of the people, and it is rather awkward to make gender a cause.
* The author is the Washington bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Sung-hee