Ascent of a Woman

I was a big fan of the TV show, West Wing. I came to the program late, but I've loved catching up on all the episodes with DVD's from Netflix. I adore Martin Sheen's President Bartlett, and would vote for him in a heartbeat. I'd even work for him, stuffing envelopes or any other pedantic thing I could do that would let me be on the fringes of such a charismatic figure's reign. So, I was excited about the prospect of another show about a US President, especially since this one featured the first woman President, played by Geena Davis. The show got big press, and the early ratings were fabulous. I was so geeked, thinking to myself that people were getting the idea that a woman in the White House was not only acceptable, but desirable! And on the first episode, when President Mackenzie "Mac" Allen walked onto the House floor and "Hail to the Chief" began to play, I actually felt shivers down my spine. "May I live long enough to see this for real," I prayed.

Sadly enough, the honeymoon for this President ended all to early. There were lots of behind the scenes changes, and the network kept pre-empting and then rescheduling the show, until the word came down just a few weeks ago that this Commander in Chief was being impeached for good.

In a survey quoted in last week's New York Times, 90% of those asked said they would vote for a woman President if the "right candidate came along." However, only 55% of those polled stated their opinion that the country as a whole was "ready" to accept a woman as President.

Although I was pleasantly surprised at the 90% who would vote for a woman President, it's the dissenting 55% that interest me. Here in America, a country whose very existence sprang from the desire for equality under the law and freedom of expression, a country who has always been on the cutting edge of scientific and technological achievement, a country that goes around the world blatantly and physically declaring it's superiority, it seems wrong that we somehow aren't "ready" to accept a woman as our leader. It's not as if there are no other examples to follow - there are women currently at the helm in Ireland, Germany, Finland, Chile, Liberia, and the Phillippines. But the American public's social and cultural idea of women hasn't caught up with the realities of women's roles in the modern world. And we really haven't yet raised a generation of young women with the idea that they can be anything they want to be, including the ruler of the free world.

No doubt we're making progress. When I was a child, a TV show about a woman President would have been considered science fiction, if it was even allowed on the air at all. At least, although briefly, President Allen was taken seriously as a character. She was able to portray a woman making the tough decisions when necessary, but also bringing a sly strength and common sense to her dealings with politicians both at home and abroad, much as a very clever mother would in her relationship with unruly teenagers.

Perhaps there's hope for me to hear "Hail to the Chief" being played for Madame President. That would certainly be music to my ears!