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While Indira Gandhi led India as a female head of government, resistance in the US to a woman President can be attributed to the dual role one has to play as not only head of state but also commander-in-chief for which women were seen as "ill-suited", an expert has said.
Professor of History at the University of New HampshireEllen Fitzpatrickwas asked at a session on 'Gender Politics and the 2016 Elections' here last week why Clinton, a female candidate is facing resistance to be elected US President even in the 21st century when Gandhi andMargaret Thatcherhad led their countries decades ago.
Fitzpatrick, at the session organised by the New York Foreign Press Centre,said part of this has to do with the fact that the American presidency is a dual role, involving not only being head of state, chief executive but also commander-in-chief of the armed services.
"And the stereotypical ideas about men and women, surely not unique to the US by any means, that women are ill-suited to warfare, strategy, treaty making, foreign policy, that this whole realm of endeavor does not come naturally to women and that men are better suited for it, is I think part of the resistance that historically existed to the idea of a woman chief executive," she said.
She cited the example of Israel's former Prime Minister Golda Meir who fulfilled both the roles but added that it is "fairly unusual".
She said that she would draw a distinction between the US and countries where women, because of a "hereditarian dynasty", were able to rise up and lead their nation, Gandhi's being the case in point.
"And in a sense, Indira Gandhi of course following in the footsteps of her father, a familial dynasty, in this manner - that's a different story," she said.
In countries where there is a parliamentary system, people vote not for the specific candidate per se but for the party.
"We could use the example of Margaret Thatcher there," she said.
Fitzpatrick added that there are certain things about the nature of the American presidential election system, the party system, and the role of the President in the constitutional separation of powers that isa variable here too, apart from the traditional resistance that exists in many countries to appointing women leaders.
She pointed out that before Clinton, there is alonghistory of women who have tried to run for America's presidency.
Fitzpatrick said over 200 women have sought the
presidency since Victoria Woodhull, the American leader of the woman's suffrage movement who was the first woman to run for President in 1872.
Most of the 200 women were minor third-party candidates who got very little traction.
Clinton's most important predecessors, the women who ran for President are Woodhull, Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine who ran in 1964 and African-American congresswoman from Brooklyn Shirley Chisholm who ran in 1972.
In 1870, when Woodhull announced she was going to run for President, she admitted she had a critical weakness that women didn't have the right to vote in the US.
Fitzpatrick said one of the chief barriers that got in the way of Clinton's predecessors is their relatively late arrival to the game of presidential politics.
"It is a staggering fact that women have only been able to vote in the US since 1920," she said.
Fitzpatrick pointed out that if a woman is elected President this time around, Clinton would finish her first term in 2020, the year that would mark the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution conferring voting rights on women.