NewsHour Essayist Discusses Chances of Female President

September 25, 2006 at 6:50 PM EDT

ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING, NewsHour Essayist: Is something wrong here? Where have all the women gone? On op-ed page after op-ed page of the country’s major newspapers, they have largely disappeared from view. As someone who used to write regularly for these pages, it is disturbing.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: This is not a time for partisanship.

ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING:It comes at a time when the country is also having a debate about whether or not it`s ready for a female president. It’s late for all this, isn’t it? After all, other countries have had female leaders long since.

And there is an attention-getting new trio of them in Michelle Bachelet of Chile, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, and Angela Merkel of Germany. Shouldn’t we be chagrinned, we Americans, who think of ourselves as the beacons of enlightenment?
Yes, the country still has lingering daddy issues.

CBS ANNOUNCER: This is the “CBS Evening News” with Katie Couric.

KATIE COURIC, “CBS Evening News” Host: Hi, everyone.

ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: It came up again when Katie Couric was appointed to an anchor chair, the first such solo woman. “Did she have the gravitas to deliver us our daily dose of sobering news?” men and women all asked. Wasn’t that a job for a man, a father figure, a Brokaw or Cronkite?

There’s also the paltry number of elected female leaders in this country: eight women governors out of 50; 14 women senators out of 100. Is it possible that we women selected ourselves out of the fray, out of the dialogue, didn’t fight hard enough for our turf? Sure, it is.

Feminist ideals

The work-family juggling act has always been daunting, and those business and lawyer careers often turned out to be less satisfying than we thought when we didn't have them. Being a hands-on mom has seemed the better option for many women, but that's what the feminist movement was about; it was about the choice being ours to make.

For women writers, we, too, have our choices, and maybe we have spent too much time thinking about and writing about our private lives, ceding the public arena to men. Abuse and anorexia, an abandonment by lovers and husbands, sex and hormones, and infertility, we wrote book after book after book. I did it, too.

Of course, there were, there are legitimate wounds to air, to address and redress, but maybe the personal wasn`t political or not political enough. We backed out of civic skirmishes, too many of us, so that the voices we hear now on radio and TV, and read about Iraq and immigration, and, yes, Hillary`s potential candidacy, are predominantly male.

Recently, in the "Style" section of the New York Times, there was a piece questioning our readiness for a woman president and also an essay by a woman bemoaning the fact that she is a love addict who fell apart and had to be hospitalized when her boyfriend left her. I winced at the inadvertent juxtaposition: It is time, I found myself thinking, past time to refocus on something bigger than ourselves.

I'm Anne Taylor Fleming.