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Why can’t a woman candidate for president be more like a...

November 11, 2007
By David Reingold
I want a woman for president. Does this mean I am supporting Hillary Clinton? No.

Ever since she ran for the Senate, Clinton has been trying to convince Americans that she is just as tough as a man. She never will admit it, but that is most likely why she voted for the Iraq war resolution.

With Americans itching for war and a popular president asking for authority to act, she could not afford to seem like a wuss. She needed to build up her macho credibility as someone who could lead America in war if necessary, and voting against a war that seemed preordained would have been political suicide.

Well, it worked: I am convinced that Clinton is just as tough as a man. The problem is that I don’t want a tough guy for president.

I know history has seen its share of tough women. From Margaret Thatcher to Catherine the Great to Queen Isabella, tough women have shown they can do just as much damage as men. Nevertheless, I maintain that the vast majority of women are different from men. It’s the testosterone.

When men are challenged, they are more likely to say ‘‘Oh yeah?’’ And many will follow that by ‘‘Meet me in the alley.’’ Women are much more likely to do their jousting with words, and more importantly, they are much more likely to decide that this confrontation simply is not worth their effort. If they are in no danger, who cares what the other person said?

We see this playing out on the international stage all the time. For example, consider last March when Iran took more than a dozen British sailors hostage, accusing them of violating Iran’s borders. America’s immediate reaction was to send aircraft carriers. ‘‘You wanna fight?’’ was the message.

It seemed like little thought was given to the idea that, so far, no one had been hurt and that the likely consequence of threats was to make Iran less willing to deal. Many believe that what actually freed the sailors was not the muscle-flexing of the Americans but the diplomacy of the British.

Of course, the ultimate and most tragic example of this is the Iraq war.

We attacked Iraq because Saddam Hussein said nasty things about us, flexed his muscles and said he would kick our butts. This is like a 5-year-old walking up to Chuck Norris and saying ‘‘You and me, outside.’’

A sensible person would smile and say, ‘‘Yeah, right,’’ but our testosterone-fueled leaders convinced us that he was strong enough to hurt us and he already had thrown the first punch. Both of these were false, but here we are, five years later, still fighting in the alley.

It is events like this that make me wish that we had a woman running our government.

But here’s the thing: the attractive thing about having a woman president is that she would not behave like a man, and yet the one woman running for president spends most of her time trying to convince the public that she is just as tough as a man would be.

Why can’t a woman be more like a woman? Haven’t we had enough mismanagement by men?

Let’s put real women in charge. Women are very protective of their broods; they will try not to let anything bad happen. If fighting is necessary, they will fight — just ask someone who comes between a mother bear and her cubs. But they also will not endanger their families by fighting, as the Village People might say, to be a macho man.

I don’t want a woman who thinks like a man. I want someone who thinks like a woman and acts like a woman. Someone who will talk to the other guy, any time, any place, to try to resolve differences before fighting becomes necessary. Someone who will stop fighting when it becomes clear that it is not accomplishing anything positive and, indeed, it is hurting us without any corresponding gain.

The woman in this race is trying too hard to be a man. So how about a male who is thoughtful enough to be a woman? That’s what I am looking for: someone strong enough to say no to fighting until there are no more options left.

David Reingold is the Foster chair in chemistry at Juniata College in Huntingdon.

I am looking for: