The New Year is dawning. According to the charter of the Amalgamated Pontificators and Spin Doctors Union, all opinion writers must review the past 12 months, make predictions about the coming year or suggest timely resolutions, preferably for other people.
So here is a prediction: The year 2016 may not be entirely happy for the world but will be historic. This will be the Year of the Woman (the last so named was in 1992).
What woman, you may ask? Well, Hillary Clinton for one. Barring unforeseen developments, she will be elected president of the United States, the crowning achievement in the advancement of womankind in our era.
We know this because we have seen the Republican candidates who would challenge her. They point out what a marvelously talented group of would-be presidents they are. They say this repeatedly in the desperate hope it might be true, like whistlers in a graveyard who assume a jaunty air to cover their insecurity.
In truth, the GOP candidates are a hopeless crew, starting at the grotesque top with Donald Trump, R-Ego, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Canada, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Ambition, and moving down to some boring but fairly sane candidates who, of course, don’t stand a chance.
With some exceptions – for example, Carly Fiorina – they appear to suffer from a severe case of testosterone poisoning and even she has a good snarl going. They want to be tough, tough, tough in a muscularly vague way, as they preach fear and a gloomy assessment of America, the opposite of Ronald Reagan’s sunny optimism.
As it would be hard to be elected dogcatcher on such a platform, Hillary Clinton is a shoo-in, assuming the American people don’t take leave of their senses, which admittedly they do from time to time.
Yes, she will be dogged by cries of Benghazi, which, as you know, is Arabic for “Hillary did it.” But whatever unlikable male GOP candidate she faces in the presidential election, he won’t be able to make politically saturated labels stick in the Year of the Woman.
For some of us like me who are unenthusiastic about Clinton – who will vote for her only to forestall a conservative extremist with a red nose and outsize clown shoes – the prospect of another Clinton administration is a decidedly mixed blessing.
But the Year of the Woman does not depend on Clinton alone. She will just be the leading symbol of a societal sea change that has affected all women, at least in parts of the world where the Middle Ages have ended and the 21st century has begun.
The Year of the Woman won’t apply in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. It won’t in parts of this country, either, where male cave dwellers will growl, “See, I told you this would happen once we gave them the vote.”
But in civilized precincts, women will be finally acknowledged as able to do anything they choose. This doesn’t mean that all gender-related injustices will end – glass ceilings won’t immediately shatter, income inequality won’t suddenly cease and domestic abuse won’t stop overnight.
No, it will mean a first step of general recognition on which all other progress will build. As it happens, female ascendancy has never been more visible.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was recently named Time’s Person of the Year, a notable honor even if she benefited because the magazine cover wasn’t big enough to fit Trumpolini’s hairdo.
Women in the armed services proved their mettle enough for the Pentagon to make all combat positions open to them.
In the ring, the most famous fighter in the world in 2015 was arguably Ronda Rousey, not simply because she was a curiosity but because she was so good, at least until she didn’t keep her guard up.
In Australia, a jockey named Michelle Payne became the first woman to win the 155-year-old Melbourne Cup – think Kentucky Derby, only bigger – and she did it riding a 100-to-1 outsider, about the odds of women being given their due a century ago. Later, she said that anybody who doubted the ability of women can “get stuffed.”
This could be the slogan of the 2016 Year of the Woman. Stories about female firsts are becoming anachronisms and President Hillary’s may be the last.
Women are succeeding everywhere, leading nations, corporations, families, platoons, churches, while still finding time to have babies and – thank goodness – bake cookies.
Let’s face it: Men have made a mess of things. As a proud father of a daughter, I say Happy New Year.
Reg Henry is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org