Now that Hillary's running for presidency, ovaries in the Oval Office are a big topic of discussion all of a sudden. Photo: RICK WILKING
“She's biologically primed to be a leader,” boomed Time magazine last week. An opinion piece by psychiatrist Dr Julie Holland explained that Hillary Clinton was the superior candidate for the US presidency because, “biologically speaking, post-menopausal women are ideal candidates for leadership. They are primed to handle stress well, and there is, of course, no more stressful job than the presidency.”
Holland was certainly well-intentioned - she attempted to use ‘science’ to prove that Hillary was in fact "the perfect age to be President". Unfortunately, the doctor’s hypothesis had a few awkward holes.
See, if post-menopausal women are the best leaders, what does that say about pre-menopausal women? Are they not the best candidates to be presidents or managers or CEOs? With the struggles that so many women face getting into leadership positions in the first place, why would anyone in their right-thinking mind try to equate a woman’s hormone levels with her ability to do her job?
Time for some real talk, you guys: when women menstruate, they don’t just lie on the couch eating chocolate or put on white capri pants and turn circles on the beach at sunset. They go on running countries, businesses and organisations. Many of them also bleed. And the world keeps turning, unaffected. Or as Jezebel once so eloquently said: “PMS makes you moody, not completely f--king incompetent.”
It goes without saying that men’s hormones are never discussed as an obstacle or advantage in their ability to run a country. Who will be the brave journalist or doctor who kicks off a conversation about Mike Huckabee’s fertility, Jeb Bush’s sex drive, or Scott Walker’s sperm count? (all directly related to their levels of testosterone, which EXACTLY like estrogen, reduces as we age).
As comedian Susie Essman said while discussing the topic on The Nightly Show, “Saying [menopause makes you a better President] is akin to saying if we have a male president, he needs to be a eunuch. It’s the same as saying you can’t have a man who has a sex drive be president or you can’t have a woman who is menstruating be president. It’s stupid.”
I am all for a greater public dialogue about menopause and menstruation - just not one that is shaming, misguided or detrimental to the progress of all women.
This isn’t the first and won’t be the last awkward article discussing Hillary Clinton’s leadership potential in a way that her male counterparts will never have to endure, but it’s interesting that even when intentions are good and articles are penned by female health professionals, we can still end up creating retrograde messages that reduce women to the sum of their parts rather than their abilities.