The glass ceiling — the importance of a clean blow
A Hilary Clinton win, it is spouted, would have broken the ‘glass ceiling’.
Now, a number of countries have long ago had a female premier — examples include large, populous, powerful countries such as the UK, Germany, Brazil, Israel, India, Pakistan, Poland, Sri Lanka, Portugal, Croatia, Norway, Canada, Turkey, South Korea, the Ukraine, Australia, Argentina and Bangladesh. [France has had a female prime minister, but I am not certain whether the President, also directly elected, is not more influential]
Obviously, this is not enough — and, should the USA, Russia, China, Mexico, South Africa and Spain follow through, ideally along with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Egypt, the dented ceiling will be convincingly shattered.
Shattered in so far as it refers to gender discrimination — there are other insidious forms of unfairness to be fought, of course.
Also, even from a gender perspective, the victory would be independent of the ‘glass floor’, to coin a new term, which refers to the systematic manner in which male infants are preferred to the female variety, resulting in abortions, infanticide, infrastructure choices of a community, access to education, and quotidian abuse.
But even the narrow definition of the ‘glass ceiling victory’ bears further scrutiny.
From the list of nations previously listed, consider the case of India. The lady in question, Indira Gandhi, had a father who had been prime minister. Or Pakistan, represented by Benazir Bhutto — her father, funnily enough, also happened to have been prime minister. Bangladesh — Khaleda Zia, whose husband had been president; or Sheikh Hasina, whose daddy also had been, curiously enough, president.
If Hilary Clinton had been elected President, or if Michele Obama is elected, it would be a woman whose husband had previously been president, as in the case of Bangladesh. Pakistan treats spouses the same way, albeit varying the order — Benazir Bhutto’s husband later became president.
In as much as breaking the ‘glass ceiling’ would be a powerful act in its symbology — let us find a woman whose father, mother, husband, sister or brother were not previous incumbents of the post.
Otherwise, it is a shallow victory, even in symbolic terms — and it might even damage the cause of equitable treatment.