Running for Office as a Girl: Bimbo or Overacheiver?

Last week, I ran for the equivalent of student body president at my school, and realized that it takes guts to run for office. Especially if you’re a teenage girl in high school.

You don’t have to have seen Election to know what often happens when girls run for class president. They’re generally placed into one of two categories: the bimbo who gets “she’s hot” votes, and the over-achieving Hillary Clinton wanna-be, who often comes to represent every tattle-tale, teacher’s pet, or book worm who’s ever annoyed anyone. I’ll let you guess which category I probably fall into.

I ran for a smaller, more organization-based student government position last year and won. This year, I decided to try something a little harder.

Just signing up to run for student body president is difficult. It’s like standing up in a big room full of people who love to judge other people, and saying, “I think I’m really smart and great and funny.” It’s half okay for a boy to do this, but it’s almost never okay for a girl.

After I decided to run, I found out I would be running against a very nice, well-liked boy in the grade below me. I didn’t know him well, but I knew that he had never participated in student government. I was worried. I would say that I’m a much louder, outspoken individual than he is, and people at my school probably have stronger feelings about me than they do him.

I also know what happens when the girl who raises her hand in every class runs for President. People often see it as an opportunity to try and teach her that she’s not as great as she thinks.

I could have pulled out of the race without telling anyone. After I saw my opponent’s name on the sign-up sheet, I could have turned around and walked away. No one would have known that I’d planned on running. But the truth is, I thought I could actually do a lot of good as president if I were elected, so something in me told me that I had to take the chance. For myself, and for the people who might vote for me.

If announcing you’re running is like standing up and saying, “I’m great,” then the election itself, is like adding, “Right?” to the end of that sentence.

On the day of the election, I couldn’t help but wonder if the people I passed in the hallway had voted for me. A few people told me they had voted for me, statements that felt like little affirmations of my human worth, but many people didn’t say anything to me at all about the election. At first it felt terrible wondering what the result would be, but then I remembered who I was before I ran for president, and I convinced myself that if anything, I’d be the same person when this whole thing was all over.

The truth is, I think I’m better person for having run. Running for office really made me believe in myself. The fact that every vote against me didn’t feel like a tiny little dagger piercing my heart makes me feel confident that I can take on anything and handle whatever result comes of it. I won’t tell you whether or not I won, because, as I found out, it really doesn’t matter.

Comments
One Response to “Running for Office as a Girl: Bimbo or Overacheiver?”
  1. Hey good for you Fiona! As you know, Martin Luther King said he had a dream that the children of the future would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by their character. I believe we need to expand that to include gender or gender orientation.

    I have always been the loud, strong and opinionated person in the room. Sometimes that makes people (of whatever gender!) uncomfortable. Oh well. That’s their Shadow side stepping in and egging them on to be bolder themselves.

    It helps if you can somehow find a compassionate way to realize that we are all here to learn how to be a better human being. This is a rewarding path of study and one you will never regret undertaking. Don’t take their resistance personally; it’s not about you. (See the 4 Agreements for more on this idea)

    I also have learned a lot having moved to a small rural area. In New York or LA, if you don’t like someone or their position, you just find another one. (“Disposable people” comes with great anonymity. Not really that good a thing!) Here in the “country”, these are the folks you’ve got. There isn’t such a big selection, so one actually truly has to learn how to play well with others. This is where the hard work of democracy takes place. Try attending some community services district meetings. Oh boy! The nitty gritty is not a pretty picture, but a lot can be accomplished over time. We are working on this here: http://www.cambriawaterwatch.org

    I have found that Listening is a very powerful tool in building consensus, and that consensus is usually far more important than acknowledgement. (At least to a certain extent). One sometimes has the choice of getting it done or being right. Hopefully that doesn’t happen too too often, but eventually people discern that true leadership which you offer when you opt for service instead of ego. Generally speaking, people wise up pretty quickly if you give them credit and believe in their common sense. (Granted – not always.)

    We are all learning new ways of power right now. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences. Have fortitude. You will find your flock, your tribe and then you will soar and fly and lead us all into a better world. Go tiger!

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Fiona Lowenstein

My name is Fiona Lowenstein, and I am a high school student. I started Barbara's Angels in 2008 when I was fourteen. My interest in politics was first sparked during the Bush vs. Gore election in 2000. My site is devoted to educating girls my age about politics, women's issues, and feminism with the hope that my generation will bring a new wave of female leaders!

About Barbara

Barbara Seaman was a women's health writer, activist, mother, and grandmother. She wrote eight books and is remembered by many as a principal founder of the women's health movement. She died of lung cancer in February 2008.