In his excellent book, “The Sports Gene”, Sports Illustrated writer David Epstein, discusses the long-standing debate about whether great athletes are born or are the result of years and years of practice. In the first chapter, “Beat by an Underhanded Girl”, Epstein describes the domination of the best Major League Baseball hitters by Jennie Finch, the top woman’s softball pitcher of all time.
“As part of the pre-game festivities, a raft of major league stars had tested their skills against Finch’s underhand rockets. Thrown from a mound forty-three feet away, Finch’s pitches take about the same time as a 95 mph fastball does from the standard baseball mound, sixty-feet six inches away. A 95-mph pitch is fast, certainly, but routine for pro baseball players. Plus, the softball is larger, which should make for easier contact.
Nonetheless, with each windmill arc of her arm, Finch blew pitches by the bemused men. When Albert Pujols, the greatest hitter of a generation, stepped forward to face Finch during pre-game practice, the other major leaguers crowded around to gawk. Finch adjusted her pony-tail nervously. A wide smile stole across her face. She was exhilarated, but anxious that Pujols might hit a line drive at her. … Finch rocked back, and then forward, whipping her arm in a great circle. She fired the pitch just high. Pujols lurched back, startled by what he saw. Finch giggled….
Finch rocked, and fired. Pujols missed badly. He turned and walked away, towards his tittering teammates. Then he stopped, bewildered. Pujols turned back to Finch, doffed his cap, and continued on his way. “I don’t want to experience that again.” he later stressed.”
I’ve spent way too much time in sports locker rooms in my life. What goes on is traditional male group dynamics: a lot of bragging, teasing and jockeying for position. Many, if not a majority, of the men don’t like women. Women are conquests. Women are bitches. Women are ball-busters, Women are arm candy. But they are women and can never be like us men. All too many of these men go through their mid-life crisis of buying a red sports car, taking up with a young woman (usually blonde) and start acting like and dressing like younger men, half-their age. The men all believe they are very macho and there is a lot of machismo going on.
While women, like Jennie Finch, have made tremendous gains in sports, those gains still don’t make them equal in overall popularity or income. But what is increasingly accepted is that women are as fierce competitors as men. While their games are different, due to differences in strength, the women play more fundamentally sound and team-oriented games.
In business, women are more accepted by men, but the usual stereotyping still applies, especially if a woman becomes their boss or a senior member of the company. They’re bitches and must have “slept their way to the top”. Seldom is it ever mentioned that the women have had to work harder and achieved more to be promoted over their male rivals. Granted, this attitude has changed greatly over time, but this overt and covert sexism still exists.
Politics is one profession where women have made major inroads, but have not totally made it to the top. at least, not in the United States. Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi are well-known examples of strong, effective women political leaders, but they have no American counterpart. As great as Eleanor Roosevelt was, and as much as she did when FDR became ill, she was not officially in charge.
Currently, there are 20 women U.S. Senators or 20% of the current Senate; 98 of the 435 U.S. Congressional seats or 17.9% There are 5 women governors, 10% of all U.S. governors. 73 women hold statewide elected office of 320 available positions or 22.8%. Since in 2012, women were 50.8% of the U.S. population, it is fair to say that women are greatly under represented in senior political positions And, of course, there have been 0 U.S. Presidents and 2 women, one very regrettable, as Vice Presidential nominees.
But this is going to change, just as there has been a first African-American President and four female Supreme Court justices, there will be a woman President soon. The current big question is whether it will be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or current Massachusetts Senior Senator Elizabeth Warren. Although she has not formally announced her candidacy, as of this date, Clinton has strongly hinted that she is running for president, and she is widely believed to be doing so. While her approval ratings have bounced up and down since she was First Lady, her current approval rating is 63%, probably due in part to her excellent work as Secretary of State. (Note: Current perception is that there are no Republican women considered to have a serious chance of becoming President in 2016.)
Senator Warren has often stated that she does not want to run for President. But she is a very popular figure with progressive/liberal voters, in large part, for her standing up to executives in the banking and financial industries regarding their roles in causing the Great Recession. The Daily Beast’s political writer, Peter Beinart, has written that Warren could be a strong challenger to Clinton in the Democratic primaries.
Here is the video of Senator Warren’s famous beat down of the bank regulators in her first Senate hearing:
The liberal/progressives believe that Hillary Clinton, like her ex-President husband, will be too centrist in her political beliefs and policies for their liking. The centrists believe that Warren is too liberal and will be too strident. Can Clinton or Warren get enough of the national vote, male and female, to win national office? Can they get enough swing votes to win the Midwestern and Southern “battleground states” that have determined the winner of recent Presidential elections?
That both are considered to be strong candidates for the Presidency represents a major sea change in the belief that women are viable nationally. But would they be able to lead and govern, especially in the current highly partisan and male dominated divided Congress? Could anyone? Would there be a government shutdown if there were women leading the White House, the Senate and the House? I don’t think so.
We need more women in politics, not just to protect women’s reproductive rights, but to help re-right the balance between governing and grandstanding. My experience with strong intelligent women is that they are usually more reasonable, sensible and willing to negotiate. But to do so, these women will have to break through the old boys club that dominates national and state elective offices. In politics, the male locker room attitude about women still applies. The sea change cannot happen fast enough to sweep out the current dense, obstructionist and sexist male Congressional members.
The first woman President, like the first African-American President, is going to have her every move and decision heavily scrutinized , nationally and internationally, than most Presidents have. It will take an intelligent, strong, savvy, wise and resourceful woman to become President of the United States.. That description certainly fits Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren.