Since it’s been found that while amount of media coverage between male and female candidates is rapidly closing, focus within the academic community has been shifted to the gender bias seen within this media coverage. According to a Political Parity article, “One of the most consistent—and persistent—findings to emerge from studies is that women candidates receive more attention to appearance, personality, and family compared to men.” And so, candidates must constantly work at maintaining an appearance as to not play into stereotypes.
Thankfully, though, these women are not alone. As Political Parity explains, “A new campaign aimed at combating sexism in the media holds promise. Called “Name It. Change It.”, the project monitors press treatment of women candidates and documents sexist coverage.” Name It. Change It. Much like other activist groups aimed at calling out the media for inappropriate content, its main goal is to draw attention to sexist political coverage, and by doing so, bringing it to an end one article at a time.
It is mind blowing to think that out of the 190 (or so) countries there are in the world today, around 50 of them have had, at one time, a female leader (Greg Laden’s Blog). Within this list is included countries such as Haiti, Liberia, and Pakistan — all countries with low enough human development rankings and gross national income to be categorized as third world nations (click here for a complete list).
Even though these countries aren’t the only ones on the list, it is important to ask why so many first and third world countries have seen a woman in leadership while America, the world’s “super power” has not. For many, it has to do with how the US approaches the issue. Time writer Marianne Schnall offers up several ideas surrounded our lack of a female American president, including the idea that “… getting a woman into the White House needs to be reframed as an essential component of a reflective democracy.”
Whatever the reason may be, isn’t at least time to see a female presidential candidate? In the upcoming 2016 election, so many hopeful hearts will look toward seeing a woman’s name appear on the ticket (not as an arm candy VP, either). So today, I challenge you to think about getting a women into office the way Schnall has framed it — as a humanity issue, not a gendered one.
“People still expect a more traditional thing from female politicians. Calling a man ambitious is seen as a positive thing. With a woman, it’s a negative.”
In a recent New York Times article, Robert Draper explores the life of Texas democrat Wendy Davis who rose to fame after a groundbreaking 11 hour filibuster last June. In “Can Wendy Davis Have It All?” Draper expresses the nuances of being a female candidate, the struggles of living a political life and her narrative for the upcoming campaign for Texas Governor. Not unlike many politicians past and present, it came about that her narrative (one of being a single mother rising from the trailer park all the way through law school), had a few fudged facts within it. Faced with extremely harsh critics, Draper explores the concept that female politicians have stricter and harder-to-meet standards when it comes to their life story and identity. Her campaign narrative, Draper states, “… was … very much the story of a female politician — and was thus fraught with choices for which male candidates are seldom second-guessed by either voters or pundits.” Divorce, raising children — these are things that never come up in a discussion of a male candidate. And so, Draper makes some interesting points while featuring Davis in a “more than just a politician light.” However, the title of Draper’s article, “Can Wendy Davis Have It All?” suggests a different gender lens, simply because we would never ask ourselves if a male politician could have a family and be successful in his career. Read Draper’s full article here and tell me what you think below.
As I sit down to get started on this blog post, I begin to worry that when I scan the news for various political stories to cover there will be nothing for me to discuss. Ha! Then reality hits and it takes me all of three minutes to find this wonderful Bill O’Reilly clip (posted today) from his show, The O’Reilly Factor. This clip, if not watched in its entirety can be deceiving. For the first three minutes O’Reilly and his guest, James Carville, discuss Hillary Clinton’s chance at the presidency through real topics such as her leadership style, fiscal policies, and how she will handle Obamacare. Of course, though, just when you think Fox might be turning over a new leaf O’Reilly (seen below at 3:25) states, “If Hillary Clinton runs for president, I think she’s going to outright say, ‘I think I’m going to put my husband in charge of the economy.'” Hmmm, how unusual for a woman’s spouse to irrelevantly brought up. And yes, O’Reilly if Hillary Clinton gets elected to office Bill Clinton will go to the movies and go bowling every day — because no first lady has ever been politically active in their own realm. While I give props to Carville for trying to defend Hillary (citing the fact that she’s a strong person who), the issue remains that women candidates experience a host of challenges when facing the media (for a full range of information on these obstacles visit Name It. Change It.). While most wouldn’t expect any less of Bill O’Reilly this video is just another instance to add to the ever growing collection of gender bias in media. Watch O’Reilly’s video below, then tell me what you make of it all.
In keeping with last post’s ‘five’ theme, I’ve decided to lighten the mood a little and create a “Senator Makeover Edition: Before and After the Media” slideshow. These images, all of successful democrat andrepublican women senators, show the media’s power in representing these politicians in whatever light (literally and figuratively) they choose. While these photos may not necessarily be doctored heavily with photoshop, it is clear that the angles, emphasis, moment and lighting have strong influence over the politician’s impression in front of the lens. However trivial and vain this might seem on my part, a Washington Post article asserts that “…ever since 1960, when a visibly perspiring Richard Nixon won a debate on the radio but lost it on TV to a relaxed and dashing John F. Kennedy, image-making has been an inescapable fact of life in American presidential politics.” Presidential or not, image making is now one of the most important components of any political career –from city council candidates to president incumbents. This issue is certainly amplified for women who receive the double whammy of these negative media portrayals and America’s obsession with how women look.
We live in a world today where women comprise 51% of the US population, but only 20% of congress, according to Miss Representation. So it’s important to look at Nancy Pelosi — the first woman to become Speaker of the House — and her relationship with the national media. While she has received mountains of attention from the media surrounding everything but her politics, she is quite possibly the only Speaker in modern day to have never graced a national weekly magazine cover during the four years she served. Once she handed the speaker’s gavel over to republican party leader John Boehner, however, he almost instantly made cover appearances on Time, Newsweek, TheNew Yorker and The Economist. Below, you’ll fine a list of embarrassing (and more intentional) moments for the media throughout Pelosi’s career.
1. “A few weeks ago, on a Thursday around noon, Nancy Pelosi whirls through the second floor of the Capitol in a sea-foam pantsuit with lots of gold jangling on her arms.” Why Is Nancy Pelosi Always Smiling?”
5. “(If Pelosi) wants fewer births, I have the way to do this and it won’t require any contraception: You simply put pictures of Nancy Pelosi … in every cheap motel room. … That will keep birth rates down, because that picture will keep a lot of things down.” Rush Limbaugh’s Greatest Hits…of Sexism. Feeling Slutty?
I find it fitting to start this blog with one of the most well known feminist activists and politicians of our time: Hillary Clinton. While she’s a public figure with a fierce divide between supporters and opponents, Clinton’s message (and media coverage of her) has certainly added to and created dialogues surrounding how our society treats, talks about, and views women in all capacities.
In a new book, “The Shriver Report: A woman’s nation pushes back from the brink,” Clinton contributes an essay in which a Politico article states she “…points to a wide range of issues, from pay equity to work-family balance to life expectancy, as areas where women in the United States still face problems…” However, these important ideas are consistently overshadowed by fierce coverage of her appearance and her ‘masculine’ mannerisms.
And now Clinton has recently seen ideological backlash from republican politicians (Rand Paul) surrounding not her, but her husband Bill Clinton’s “pass” for his “‘predatory’ affair with Monica Lewinsky.” Denying the Republican’s rocky relationship with women’s rights, Paul states that the republican party is “the war for women,” even after Mike Hukabee’s remarks in a recent speech:
“… And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America.”
Regardless of the criticism and backlash she receives from republican opponents, a Yahoo! poll published just last week shows she is the front runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential ticket. Nevertheless, we will have to wait and see if Clinton’s scrunchie wearing will affect her ability to fulfill the presidency.