JARED DE CANHA

The race will soon be on in the United States as the country looks toward its 2016 presidential election in an age-old struggle between Democrats and Republicans. Enter Hillary Clinton: a woman with impressive credentials who has recently thrown her name into the race to become the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, in the hope of becoming the first female president of the superpower that is the US.

Clinton is no stranger to the White House, and will be hoping to complete her cycle which began when she served as first lady to her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was elected in 1992. Clinton has since held the position of senator and became secretary of state under the Obama administration. This will be Clinton’s second bid for the presidency after her hopes were snuffed in 2008 when fellow Democrat Barack Obama was elected as the Democratic nominee and later the 44th president of the US.

Clinton has commanded her fair share of attention during her time in American politics. In her current presidential campaign, which was recently launched on social media, Clinton posed a question to American citizens asking if they were “ready for Hillary?” This question was answered by approximately 90 000 retweets, over a million views of her campaign video and almost 500 000 likes on her campaign’s Facebook page on the day that her candidacy was announced. Clinton can also boast about being the first American presidential wife in history to have entered into the position of first lady as a professional with a postgraduate degree. Clinton’s influence and political prowess have also earned her sixth place on the Forbes “100 most powerful women of 2014” list, where she was ranked under the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. This ranking was slightly lower than usual for this regular who was rated second on the Forbes list of the “Most powerful women in politics” in 2011 when she held the position of US secretary of state.

In her 2008 campaign Clinton avoided making a spectacle of the fact that her victory would result in history being made as she would be the first female president to be elected. This approach, however, has changed according to CNN Politics, who reported in an article titled “Hillary Clinton’s gender tightrope” that Clinton will use her gender to her advantage in this election. Many Americans, however, view her age as a bigger hindrance. Clinton will be 69 years old if she is successful in her bid for the presidency and would be the second oldest person to hold office after 77-year old Ronald Reagan. Clinton’s age has sparked speculation as to whether she will have the stamina to try for two terms in office. This does not, however, mean that her gender has not come under scrutiny.

The Huffington Post recently reported that Clinton’s campaign has received sexist sentiments at some of her rallies where men displayed posters and yelled for Clinton to “iron their shirts”. The sale of Hillary Clinton nutcrackers denoting her reputation for being perceived as tough, as well as sentiments on Twitter referring to Clinton as “Hilda-Beast” and mocking her habit for wearing unflattering trouser suits, have also negatively contributed to her campaign. This is why it is believed that Clinton will enlist help from loyal supporters such as American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, as well as fashion house Oscar de la Renta, in the hopes of avoiding any fashion blunders which could hinder her efforts to tackle the remaining sexist sentiments against her campaign. Clinton will hope to join the elite group of leading ladies in global politics and cement the US among countries such as Liberia, Brazil, Germany, South Korea, Bangladesh, Thailand and Argentina, all of which are currently being led by women.

The potential appointment of Clinton as the 45th president of the US will not only have significant consequences for the US, but the world as well. Based on the level of interconnection we all experience at the hands of globalisation, it is hoped that this appointment will strengthen the call to improve gender representation in our own country. South Africa failed to achieve its gender equality goal in politics ahead of the 2015 deadline. The goal of a 50% target of female representation in all areas of decision-making was first determined at a 2014 Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting, under the Protocol on Gender and Development adopted in South Africa in 2008. According to the Gender Links News Service, female representation in Parliament dropped by 4% between the 2009 and 2014 elections, while female representation in provincial legislatures dropped from 41% to 37%.The percentage of female premiers also dropped by a considerable 33% in the same time period. Female representation in South African politics was also worsened this year after DA leader Helen Zille announced her resignation as leader of the party in April. Zille did, however, subsequently announce that she would continue in her role as premier of the Western Cape until her second term ends in 2019. The crowning jewel in Africa’s attempts to create a more represented society currently sits in Ethiopia, with the Chairperson of the African Union in the form of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who was dubbed “the Iron Lady”, once said that, “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.” It is hoped that Clinton and other powerful women in politics will utilise their influence in order to not only shape international political relations to improve the representation of both sexes, but that they will also lead the way for a new generation of women who do not recognise the existence of the glass ceiling.

Image: Hendro van der Merwe

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