The author is the Washington correspondentof the JoongAng Ilbo.
The first female candidate for vice president in the United States was Geraldine Ferraro, running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale in the 1984 election. When asked, “Can you bake a blueberry muffin?” Ferraro retorted, “Sure, can you?” Thirty-six years have passed, but it seems that Americans’ attitudes about a female candidate in a presidential race have not changed that much.
In an interview with Fox News after she entered the Republican presidential race in 2015, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was asked if a woman’s hormones prevent her from serving in the Oval Office. She rebutted, saying, “Don’t men’s hormones cloud his judgment?” referring to Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The biggest stumbling block for Senator Kamala Harris — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate in this year’s election — was not a lack of career or personality: It was her “ambition.” Close aides to Biden and large donors told him she would be inappropriate to serve as vice president because of her high ambitions. They were afraid of a dearth of loyalty to her boss and a desire to do politics on her own. Instead, they recommended Biden pick Karen Bass, a member of the House of Representatives, as his running mate.
However, Biden ended up choosing Harris in consideration of her strong competitiveness in the race, her close relationship with his late son, her three terms in office, a resilience stemming from her career as a district attorney and her success story as an immigrant, to name a few.
It does not make sense to demand that Harris give up her ambition even while accepting her strengths, as the ambition must have helped her build her outstanding career as elected attorney general of California, a Senator and one of the most successful politicians in the United States. The debate about a female politician’s ambition shows that double standards apply to a number of female corporate leaders and scholars in academia.
Fourteen out of 48 U.S. vice presidents became president, as Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush did. Biden has run for president three times already, not to mention serving as vice president under Barack Obama for eight years. If a politician is used to “discrimination,” he or she can hardly tell what really constitutes discrimination. A simple standard here is whether they would apply the same discrimination to male candidates or not.