Have you ever heard of Victoria Woodhull? If you have, move forward three spaces! If not, go back to the start. Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to ever run for president of the United States. She ran in the late 1800s, before the 19th Amendment was put into place (Felsenthal). That is to say that Woodhull couldn’t even vote for herself. If that wasn’t enough, consider her platform: “The heart and soul of her platform was a society free a government that makes laws which interfere with the rights of any individual, man or woman, black or white, ‘to pursue happiness as they may choose” (Felsenthal).
Cultural ideas that surround femininity have traditionally circulated around an almost submissive figure. To compare this image to that of Victoria Woodhull is to see stark contrast. Woodhull was able to create a name for herself in the world of finance, an industry that is largely male even today. Her determination and hard work led to the launch of what would soon become a left-wing political paper. In addition to all this, she ran for president of the United States. Despite all her work, Victoria Woodhull’s name is relatively lost to history. She led both an incredibly progressive and productive life and yet, her name is not one that we will read in history books. Highlighted even in the provided article were her divorce and “indelicate” behavior. I question the scrutiny Woodhull received only because I wonder if she would have even seen the spotlight if she were male.
Let’s take a look at a recent example. Hilary Clinton just ran for president of the United States of America for the second time. Her adversary and current President, Donald Trump fits very well into the higher tier of Bornstein’s Power Pyramid. Hilary was often criticized for her voice, her attire, and her general demeanor. Trump, on the other hand, got significant amount of backlash for failure to submit his tax returns and his attitude towards minorities. Notice the difference? While Hilary, a seasoned politician and intellectual, was getting flack for her pantsuits, Trump was facing questions about his thoughts on domestic policy. Let’s do a quick compare and contrast on some of the things that came up during this past election.
That’s pretty clean. Now let’s take a look at what people were actually talking about: Entertainment News was kind enough to release a list of the most talked about events during the campaign season. The 16 items feature popular Saturday Night Live skits, the time Donald Trump called Hilary Clinton a “nasty woman”, and Katy Perry’s most recent Halloween costume. There are a few problems here, but the biggest issue is that, of all things, this is what was getting publicity. Pay no attention to Hilary’s political acumen or the fact that she is making a conscious effort to be more progressive. Orlando Bloom dressed up as Bill Clinton for Halloween, that’s obviously what matters.
In the United States, 51% of the population is female to which the argument can be made that if the power of the land truly resides in the hands of the people, women are more powerful today than they have been in the past. Just recently, history was made with the global Women’s March. This is a direct example of Foucault’s theory of power in action. Women from around the world participated in protesting the lack of equality that they
were being faced with in light of this past presidential election.
Now this can be applied to Woodhull’s actions. Her work to create positive change for women and establish herself as a capable individual was a huge step for women everywhere, yet we hear nothing of it. Why? Perhaps it is that Victoria Woodhull may have placed a question in society’s mind, but it was not enough to challenge the norm to the extent that her actions would be a topic of discussion for the masses within several years of her passing.
Felsenthal, Carol, Karl Sharro, Garrett M. Graff, and Maria Konnikova. “The Strange Tale of the First Woman to Run for President.” POLITICO Magazine. N.p., 9 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.
Vulpo, Mike. “16 Pop Culture Moments From Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s Presidential Election We’ll Never Forget.” E! Online. E! News, 08 Nov. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.