I sat staring at the TV in complete shock last week as Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell made a wicked, sad fool of herself. I wanted to leap through the television and shut her up - not for her clear lack of knowledge of law and current events or even for her politics - but moreover, for her gross embarrassment to me as a woman. For that dishonor alone, I'm sure my high school Women's Studies professor is cringing with disdain.
I am a woman with a bias. I vote for women if I can. It's just the way I roll. I don't really know why. Maybe it's my history attending an extraordinarily feminist school; maybe it is me in the footsteps of my entrepreneur mother; maybe for my love of the underdog or the passion I have to raise my daughter with an equal balance of femininity and balls-out strength. My first inclination during election season is to seek out the female candidates and support them if I can. It might not be right, but it's what I do. The only problem is, it's hard to stand behind female candidates that are neither feminine nor brilliant. Christine, Meg, Carly, even you, Barbara: you are letting me down.
Somehow I expect that women will conduct themselves better in business and politics than men. I expect to see issues discussed cleanly, clearly and honestly. I expect a strong debate, filled with valid inflammatory topics and solid political banter. I want a good battle, an honest fight and die-hard representation of the things that make each candidate passionate about their role in the political theater. With the exception of being pro choice, I am willing to accept almost every political view, but I am not willing to accept unladylike conduct.
Meg Whitman, one of our local female CEOs has a wildly different position on politics than I do, but that's not why I'm disappointed. It's the wretched thievery of content, the nasty, dirty advertising smears, the red-faced head-shaking fury of a woman on the brink of leadership. A leader doesn't mistreat employees, whether they are execs at eBay or illegal house keepers. Leadership for women is the opposite of that - using the cortisol in our brains to our distinct advantage, not disadvantage to others. I don't want PollyAnna for a politician, but at the same I've known insiders who say Whitman is a true witch - and not the good corporate kind that all of us female entrepreneurs secretly want to be. Oh Meg, you leave me no choice but to vote for the liberal, bald-headed Jerry Garcia wanna be. You let me down.
The national political stage for women has been set for this year's election and it's ugly. Our women in leadership seem to have lost their ability to woo an audience as women. Even Sarah Palin has lost her ladylike manner, replacing it with texting lingo "Pls" for "please", making up words like 'refudiate' and finishing everything with an exclamation point or two!! Fading to the background are ladies in politics including the formidable Condoleezza Rice whose grace never, ever tarnished, despite the trepidatious environment of international unrest, war and the endless hinting at being gay. I am not a fan of Rice's politics, but female politicians can take note: Dress appropriately, behave like a lady, speak intelligently or do not speak, fight like hell for what you believe in.
What is a woman wanting to support women in politics to do? I will not spend my vote or even so much as slow down my Tivo fast-forward on women who play dirty politics. I expect more from women. I expect civility, respect and, most of all, I expect you to represent me as both a woman, an executive and a voter with dignity.