ISU Professor Says She Dreamed Of A Female President Since Childhood | WGLT

ISU Professor Says She Dreamed Of A Female President Since Childhood

Oct 4, 2016

Credit Lyndsie Schlink

For the first time in U.S. history, a woman tops the ticket of a major U.S. political party.

Illinois State University Associate Professor of History Dr. Kyle Ciani said that is a big deal.

"I think it's important for the nation, I think it's important historically" said Ciani.  "I think it's also very important in juxtaposition to who the Republican candidate is."

Ciani is also a core faculty member for the women's and gender studies program at ISU.  She said the symbolism of a major party female Presidential candidate is significant for young girls and women.

"As a little girl, I dreamed of this moment" said Ciani.  "But as a little girl, I was told a woman would never be President.  I think that now girls that are 10, or in their teens and twenties, they're seeing there is a very real possibility that a woman can become President, should become President, has every right to be President."

In addition to not having had a female President, the United States also lags behind many other western allies in the percentage of women in it's national legislature.  Currently, female representation in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives sits at roughly 20%.  That compares to 44% for Sweden, 41% for Spain,  and 37% for both Germany and the Netherlands.  Some Middle Eastern countries many in the U.S. might not think of as friendly to female equality even fare better.  Afghanistan has 28% female representation in it's national legislature, Iraq sits at 27%, as of 2015.  Ciani said the lack of a federal child care program is a major contributing factor to the lower U.S. numbers, at least relative to European countries.

"We do have Federal Medical Leave Act, but that's unpaid" noted Ciani.  "So there's not a federally mandated program that allows for women to remove themselves from the workforce for three months and be paid.  If you have a benefit plan where you can save up your vacation where you have sick leave etc, that's what you can draw on.  So I think that has a lot to do with why women don't engage more in the political process, and in the labor force."

Ciani also points to the dearth of female politicians at the national level means there is a lack of role models in general.  Also, because women were essentially barred from the political process for so long, they haven't been able to build political capital to the same degree as men.

"So the women in the Senate and the House of Representatives make it a point to network and to expand their network to the youngest members of Congress.  If you're on Capital Hill, you're going to get a handshake from a woman the first day you're on that hill."

Similar to the 2008 election cycle when racist emails referencing Barack Obama were making the rounds, Ciani said misogynistic emails and social media memes and rants are already happening with Clinton's run.   She said ageism is one manifestation of that misogyny.  Ciani pointed to Clinton's 9/11 appearance in New York City when the Democratic nominee had difficulty walking due to an unannounced bout with Pneumonia.  She thought it was interesting that Clinton supporters on social media pushed back hard on that episode.

"They said 'well she didn't talk about it because women don't talk about it, they just do it.'  It's like we (women) don't walk around with a sign.  We don't talk about doing the laundry, we just got it done.  We don't talk about the report that we stayed up until two in the morning to complete because our boss asked us to had it on  his desk at 7:00 a.m.  So I think there has been a little bit of an education over this.  Women don't talk about their health.  Those are the types of memes I'm seeing on social media" said Ciani.

Ciani's was featured in Ryan Denham's article After Hillary in the most recent edition of ISU's Redbird Scholar magazine.  Read it here.