When Geraldine Ferraro was nominated to be 1984 Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondales vice president, many believed it would signal an enormous change for women in the political process. But many say it wasnt until this election, with Sen. Hillary Clintons historic bid for the Democratic nomination and Gov. Sarah Palins Republican vice-presidential nomination, that women truly made a large impact.
Although Clinton and Palin have often been compared in the past few months, many believe the two are significantly different.
All Clinton and Palin share is the same chromosome, said Kate Ryan, co-chair of the Wagner Womens Caucus.
Ryan asserts that while Clintons campaign was more about her goals than her gender, Palins nomination is historic for other reasons.
The Palin decision was a little more gender-based, Ryan said. The RNC wanted someone who would represent the average American while trying to get female voters from the Democrats.
With Clintons campaign and now the potential for Palin to be vice president, many believe the glass ceiling preventing women from reaching the highest tier of American government is now broken. However, Erin Ortiz, co-chair of the Wagner Womens Caucus, believes that it is merely cracked.
A woman can be president; however, Clintons campaign raised a lot of issues about hardcore Democrats not wanting to vote for a woman, Ortiz said.
She believes that underlying sexism has played a role in the election.
You see issues being raised about Palin having a pregnant daughter and an infant with Down syndrome and how shes going to be able to efficiently do her job, Ortiz said. You dont see people worrying about Barack Obamas young children because theres a woman taking after them. But Todd Palins with the children. They are under parental supervision.
When Clinton lost the Democratic nomination for president, there was speculation that it was this underlying sexism at work. However, Ortiz believes it to be Clintons stance on key issues that lost her the nomination.
Politically speaking, Clinton could have been the Democratic candidate. However, when people wanted change, she chose to fall back on experience, Ortiz said. Shes essentially a political machine, which is great, but not what the people wanted.
According to Ortiz, only about 15 percent of Congress is female. Because approximately half of the population of the United States is female, Ortiz and Ryan believe this percentage is not representative of the country.
Sexism has become something that is postfeminism, Ryan said. They say the problem has been solved, so lets stop talking about it. But its not solved.
However, sexism is not the only thing keeping women from the White House.
Sexism, whether overt or whether its unconscious, is absolutely not just the issue, Ortiz said. Women are also facing gender roles. Its not about the choice, its about the expectation.
Although the country may still be battling gender issues, both Ortiz and Ryan believe it is moving in the right direction.
They are definitely role models, especially to younger children, Ryan said. Twenty or 30 years from now, it could show that Clinton and Palin really opened the door for women in Congress.