Last week, a friend sent me a fun bit of political humor (h/t S. Moss):
The movie Wizard of Oz is 72 years old.
Today, if Dorothy were to encounter Men
with no brains, no hearts, and no courage
She wouldn’t be in Oz …
She’d be in Congress!
I immediately wanted to add “Or in the White house!”
Dorothy would just as easily find men without brains, hearts and courage in there. But then I caught myself. Dorothy may be qualified to be in the White House, but the American people have yet to elect a woman to our highest public office, so poor Dorothy would have to settle for being a visitor for the day.
And, I have to say, as I thought about that visitor status it kind of stuck in my craw. How can we be the most democratic republic in the world and still manage to not inaugurate a Madam President in our 235 year history. As a country, we flaunt our equal rights around the globe. Yet, in a 2008 Pew Poll, the major reason given for women not being elected as leaders of our nation was that the American people were not ready yet.
Seriously? What is there to ready?
We are historically decades behind the record makers when it comes to women leaders worldwide:
1999 Sweden became the first country to have more female ministers than male … and in 2007 the Finish government had 60% women.
Currently there are 30 female leaders in 29 different countries including:
The 12 female Presidents are in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Finland, India, Ireland, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Lithuania, San Marino and Switzerland.
And 12 woman Prime Ministers; in Australia, Bangladesh, Croatia, Germany, Iceland, Mali, Slovakia, Thailand, and Trinidad and Tobago and in the self-governing territories of Bermuda, Sint Maartin and the Åland Islands.
So how could a woman president still seem too radical a concept for the US, the most advance country in the world, to accept?
It just doesn’t hold water.
Even The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book on which the movie was based, was written over a hundred and eleven years ago. Apparently, back then, the idea of a young spunky girl leading a band of misfit men and a dog on a successful mission was not only accepted but celebrated enough to become a beloved classic, and cherished enough by the many generations that followed to become immortalized in a movie.
Just to show how seriously feeble “Not ready” is as an excuse. Those same 2008 Pew Poll respondents, who perceived Americans were not yet ready for a woman president also perceived that women’s leadership traits met or exceeded men’s leadership traits in seven out of eight categories and women absolutely blew away men in the two most important leadership traits — Honesty and Intelligence.
And still in February 2008 as Hillary Clinton battled Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination only 71% of likely voters said they were willing to vote for a woman president.
So here we are, more than three years later, with a lot of water under the bridge. Last month, a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 82% of Likely U.S. Voters say they are willing to vote for a woman president.
Sounds like progress.
Except, that once again we are facing a presidential election with only one woman in the running against a legion of men. How can that be? Women have moved into every area of management and executive leadership positions in the US and throughout the world. The US has one of the highest, if not the highest, educated female population on the planet.
And still we can only produce one female presidential candidate at a time?
For all practical purposes this makes optimists out of the Nearly three-out-of-four voters (73%) now think it’s at least somewhat likely that a woman will be elected president in the next 10 years, although that includes just 26% who say it is Very Likely.
All of this seemed depressing enough for anyone middle-aged that is hoping to see a woman president in their life time. But the worst was yet to come. I caught an interview of Dr. Nassir Ghaemi on the Dylan Ratigan show. Dr. Ghaemi, author of “A First-Rate Madness” researched the connection between mental health and great leaders and what leadership characteristics were historically needed in times of crisis. His conclusion? The greatest crisis leaders had mental health issues and it was their illness that made them great crisis leaders.
From A First-Rate Madness:
… the theme of this book can be stated this way: “The best crisis leaders are mentally ill or mentally abnormal; the worst crisis leaders are mentally normal.”
Why? Because mental illness made these leaders more realistic, empathetic, creative, and resilient.
I don’t claim depression invariably leads to realism, nor that mania always enhances creativity, nor that depression on every occasion increases empathy, nor that hyperthymiainevitably promotes resilience. Rather, I argue that, on the whole, more often than not, those mental illnesses enhance or promote those qualities more frequently than is the case in the absence of those mental illnesses.
Without blinking an eye, the panel on the Ratigan show (including one woman) then proceeded to discuss how someone with mental health issues could realistically navigate the political process. Not one person bothered to point out that if the leadership characteristics that are most needed in times of crisis are those listed above, wouldn’t it seem reasonable to look to see who else in the general population has those characteristics without the baggage and complexities involved with mental illness. Because it seems to me the answer is glaringly obvious.
Look again at that leadership traits chart above. Men barely registered while women soared on honesty, compassion and creativity.
Or go back through history and read not just the standard male based text books, but the likes of Resilience and Courage: Women, Men, and the Holocaust by Nechama Tec and Making do: women, family, and home in Montreal during the Great Depression by Denyse Baillargeon and Yvonne Klein. When you look at each of these moments of great crisis — the Great Depression, the Holocaust, World War I and II — the group in the affected population that best met the tests of those times with the most realism, empathy, creativity and resilience was —
And yet, which segment of the population has been mostly excluded from leadership positions?
And yet, now we are willing to seriously consider insane men over sane women to lead our country?
Even Dr. Ghaemi points out in his book:
Some people with manic-depressive illness are unrealistic (even psychotic), unempathic, and unresilient. We shouldn’t romanticize this condition; in its most extreme forms, it is highly disabling and dangerous.
We are truly living in the land of Oz.
Better start looking for a pair of ruby slippers!