Fifty-five years ago, Sirivamo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the first woman elected president in the world. It’s a startling fact – one that is younger than my own grandparents. It wasn’t until they were my age that a woman was ever elected president. But even in their seventies, they have never seen a woman elected president in their own country. That is, unless Hillary Clinton surprises us all and wins the 2016 presidential election.
It’s hard for me to come to terms with the underrepresentation of women in the United States government. Women hold only 20% of congressional seats, despite composing a majority of our population, and despite the fact that we need women to lead. It’s time for women to have leaders that will prioritize their rights and fight for their equality. This is 2015. We have watches that can answer our phone calls and devices that can do virtually anything, but we have yet to see a woman as president. It’s silly, striking, and ridiculous – but unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any less true.
The very fact that Hillary Clinton is running for president makes me hopeful. Sure, she isn’t the first (I’m looking at you Victoria Woodhull!) and she still has a long way to go, but she’s trying. She is present. She is being heard by thousands of people, and that’s more than we can say for a vast majority of the other females in our very own country, let alone the world.
I’m not saying I would vote for her based solely on her biology. I’m not saying anyone should. But she is a wildfire, blazing a trail to a future of gender equality. That, if nothing else, is undeniable. Any person who can say with conviction that “women’s rights are human rights,” who can speak on women’s rights time and time again, is someone I can see myself supporting. Any person who deeply understands the troubles women face every day, big and small, is someone I can see myself supporting.
Even if she doesn’t win, she will have at least given it her best shot. Maybe she will inspire other women to run in future elections, presidential or not. Or maybe she will inspire women to ask for promotions they know they deserve, or apply for that job, or that town council position. But no matter what happens, she will have leapt when she didn’t have to. She will have tried. She will have given women the courage, the inspiration, and the motivation we so desperately need. And that, in and of itself, is an inspiration.