“Women can’t be in office. They’re too emotional.”
“Women just don't have what it takes to get things done.”
“They have exactly the wrong kinds of traits for a leader.”
Women running for public office often find themselves facing all kinds of trite, sexist assumptions. Women find that they have to prove themselves to be as strong as men in order to avoid being called out for their “delicacy” or “emotional nature.” However, in the upcoming midterm elections, 12 women veterans are completely forgoing this challenge.
As more women feel empowered to run for Congress, we see an increasing amount of female veterans getting their names on ballots. Female veterans have already proven themselves to be strong oracles of change and efficiency through their work in the military. With public military figures such as George Washington University Alum Tammy Duckworth and Tulsi Gabbard already in Congress and women such as Amy McGrath and Mikie Sherill on their way, the blue wave comes with a bit of a pink—and camo—twist.
Amy McGrath from Kentucky came into the limelight with her ad condemning Mitch McConnell and the sexism in the military. As a young girl, McGrath hoped to become a military fighter pilot. She wrote many members of congress (including McConnell, who did not respond) and got one particularly poignant response from Rep. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado: “The object of a war is to win. We should, therefore, field the best-qualified military possible...I think that it is time for military service to be based on qualifications, not gender.” With this sentiment, McGrath is running her campaign for Congress. McGrath later served as a an F/A-18 fighter pilot and went on to serve as a foreign affairs advisor to San Diego’s Rep. Susan Davis. In her campaign ad, McGrath says:
"When I was a young girl growing up in Kentucky, I dreamed of being a fighter pilot. Women couldn‘t do that then. Women couldn‘t do a lot of things. But society changed, laws changed, and I was privileged to attend the Naval Academy. Four long, tough years later I was commissioned as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, and my dream to serve as an F/A-18 fighter pilot came true. But the Academy and the Corps did more than teach me to fly, they instilled values, a desire to serve my country and a code of conduct I will never forget: honor, courage, and commitment. I have lived that code for more than 24 years."
McGrath’s campaign matters because she actively demonstrates how womanhood was not was barred her from achieving her dream, rather it was societal norms. In fact, as McGrath is running for Congress, being a female gives her a bit of a boost; More and more Kentucky women have been motivated to cast their ballots this month thanks to McGrath. Female vets who run for Congress are important. They show voters that women can be strong, decisive, and qualified leaders. These women wear the patriotism and strength needed for the job on their sleeves. If successful, these women may pave the way for all women to run for public office - without the sexist stereotypes.