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You've Come A Long Way, Baby

This presidential election is supposed to be historic, right? Yet, the fact that we could be months away from the first ever woman in the White House has been virtually ignored.
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This presidential election is supposed to be historic, right? Yet, while we've been barraged with endless political commentary regarding "the race issue" at hand, we've hardly heard a word about the "gender issue" - or women's issues for that matter. The fact that we could be months away from the first ever woman in the White House has been virtually ignored.

Given that women didn't get the right to vote until 1920, this should be major news. Hillary Clinton's success to date should be as celebratory as Barack Obama's. Disturbingly, however, "you've come a long way, baby" is rarely uttered by our media. Instead, we have media outlets like Newsweek trying to create headlines by proposing that Obama may become our "first woman President."

In his piece "The First Woman President?", Martin Linsky actually states that "this campaign will always be remembered for the emergence of the first serious woman candidate for president: Barack Obama." He likens this claim to Toni Morrison's 1998 description of Bill Clinton as "the first black president." In doing so, Linsky seems to have overlooked that while the Clintons have been active on addressing racial disparities for decades, we have yet to see Obama step up to address women's issues with quite the same zest on such a large scale - on and off the campaign.

In describing Obama's "feminine" qualities, Linsky casts him against Hillary's "more traditional (and male?) authoritarian approach." Too caught up in gender stereotypes, this Harvard faculty member completely ignores how monumental it is to have a woman who can hang with the boys in this country. He seems to have forgotten that - at last - the U.S. has a female running for a seat women have already achieved in countries like India, Chile, Argentina, Finland, the Philippines, and Iceland.

The only way I can comprehend the media's failure to capture women's history in the making is that perhaps women have reached a point where we've out-performed ourselves. It's no longer newsworthy to hail our accomplishments. In fact, apparently doing such can be interpreted as flagrant and antagonistic. Case in point: one of my column readers called me 'sexist' for highlighting a U.S. Census Bureau survey confirming that women are outperforming men in higher ed. Sure, I reported it with a little bit of "who's smarter now?" sass, but what's disturbing about such reaction is its sheer ignorance. People seem to have forgotten that, just last century, Sigmund Freud was telling us that women were less intelligent than men.

We've had to go through a lot to get our graduate degrees, to be in positions of power, to be running for President... Let's not forget that it has taken women our entire history on this earth to be where we're at - and we're still, to a large extent, second class citizens no matter where we go. Consider that...

The 2003 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) holds that over two-thirds of the world's 860 million illiterates are women.

In societies with limited resources, females are more likely than males to be deprived of basic needs, like food and medicine.

According to the World Health Organization, 100-140 million females worldwide have been violated with female genital mutilation.

It has been estimated that one million female fetuses are aborted every year in India.

Honor killings are still alive and well in some Middle Eastern countries.

Teen girls in southern Africa and the Caribbean are infected with HIV 4 to 7 times more often than boys because of sexual abuse, exploitation and discrimination practices.

While it can be easy to chalk up these issues as "foreign" ones, the U.S. is not immune. When it comes to violence issues alone, over 40% of females in the U.S. have likely been the victims. This includes childhood sexual abuse (over 17%), physical assault (almost 20%), rape (over 20%), and intimate partner violence (over 34%). When these "incidences," to put it trivially, are not addressed, victims are at an increased risk for committing suicide, being murdered, and suffering from a variety of serious injuries and chronic health conditions. As has been declared by the UNESCO, violence against females is "a major public health emergency" of global proportions, affecting one in three females worldwide. How dare anyone trivialize how far we have come.

No presidential election should be decided by race or gender. People should cast their votes according to who can get the job done on the issues nearest and dearest to them. Having breasts or being black is not going to make things happen. Neither makes you the better candidate. But when it comes to who is standing up for my rights and looking out for my interests as a woman, let's give credit where credit's due: The story of a first female president should be about Hillary - not Barack - especially when it comes to making women's history. It's simply gross and wrong to frame it otherwise.

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