Ferraro's legacy leaves work undone
Mar 29, 2011 | 5857 views | 0 0 comments | 138 138 recommendations | email to a friend | print
To the end Geraldine Ferraro remained a strong advocate for women and workplace equality for all. During her lifetime, important advances were made in narrowing the gender gap, especially since the mid-1980's, when she ran for vice president. So it's ironic that in politics - the place where Ferraro left her mark - women still face such major challenges.

It is true there are more female senators and governors than ever before. And at the local level women play a crucial role in city and state politics.

But that progress melts away at the highest levels. A woman has never been elected mayor of New York City, let alone president of the United States. Why is this?

Why was there a quarter-century gap between Ferraro and the next female vice presidential nominee of a major party? Further, if women have made such important strides in the workplace, why did Sarah Palin face the same kinds of sexist criticisms in 2008 that Ferraro did in 1984?

Back then, Ferraro's candidacy was dominated by questions about her family life, finances, professional qualifications and even physical appearance, not so much by the issues themselves. If this made sense at the time it was only because she was a Shirley Chisholm-like barrier-breaker.

But it would stand to reason that the novelty surrounding a woman seeking national office would have worn off more than two decades later. Palin, however, endured the same scrutiny her supporters insisted would never have been leveled on a male candidate.

Understand, this is not an endorsement for Sarah Palin.

As Ferraro put it, in an interview with this newspaper in the months before her death, Palin “was not then nor is she now qualified to be president.” But something is wrong if voters and pundits still can't look past a candidate's gender to focus on the value of their character and ideas.

If Palin or Speaker Christine Quinn run for higher office in the next few years (and both surely will) these questions will pop up once more, as will inevitable comparisons to Hillary Clinton's well-organized, issue-driven primary campaign in 2008.

Clinton proved that in some cases many Americans are ready to accept women into the upper echelons of power. Let's hope she becomes the rule, not the exception. It would be a fitting tribute to Ferraro's legacy, and to the diverse, multicultural borough she represented in Congress.

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