In a recent piece by Ann Friedman on the "relatability" of female politicians, Diane Feinstein, the Democratic Senator from California, was asked about the potential of a two-woman ticket for the 2016 presidential election. Her response?
I'm not sure it's wise. You want a ticket that represents men and women.
Like Friedman, I found this response strange coming from one of the two female senators who have represented the state of California for two decades.
If California voters were comfortable with Boxer and Feinstein representing them in the U.S. Senate 20 years ago — and have reelected them ever since — what makes her think American voters wouldn’t be okay with two women in the White House two years from now?
The fact that the first reaction to the idea of an all-female presidential ticket by a highly accomplished (and female) United States Senator is to express concern that the interests of men will somehow go unrepresented, is a perfect example of the powerful internalization of institutional and social biases that permeate every aspect of our society, including politics.
Friedman says this is because "[w]omen are in the habit of accepting male candidates as the default and male perspectives as neutral rather than gendered....women are used to getting past the question of whether candidates resemble us [because they never ever have], and considering instead whether they'll represent us." She's right. Male is typically viewed as the "default setting" in many situations, including cartoons and movies.
Even though the majority of moviegoers are women, we get tons of movies with male protagonists because the overwhelmingly male filmmakers assume women will be able to empathize with all types of characters, whereas men will only relate to men.
So, even though every single President and Vice President we've ever had, has been male, the question of whether an all-female ticket can represent the interests of both men and women, ironically appears to be a valid one, because the concept of two women representing the entire country is such a foreign concept, even to a United States Senator.
Friedman notes that, naturally, this is not a phenomenon from which men suffer.
Men...have had far less practice. They’re used to being represented by … men. Their presidents have always been men. Congress is 81.5 percent male. The picture in state legislatures isn’t much better. (And this is all in contrast to much more equitable gender balances elsewhere in the world).
While I believe in diversity of representation and opinions, we shouldn't question whether two women can adequately represent the interests of the American people, any more than we have of two (traditionally old and white) men.