By: Sheyenne White
In a society saturated with the remnants of prejudice, women are still fighting for a seat at the table. Under the current administration, women have been subjected to the normalization of misogyny; with many arguing that Feminism is an archaic ideology of the past, instead of a diagnostic tool of the present. For too long have women been dismissed, forgotten, and ignored; constraints that have kept women misrepresented, marginalized, and meek. Throughout history, passivity and powerlessness have gone hand in hand, but Feminism has given the voiceless a voice.
The movement of Feminism was instrumental in the 2018 midterms, helping women shatter historic glass ceilings; bringing a surge of women into state offices, congressional seats, and positions of authority. The afterglow of the 2018 midterms positioned 2019 as the “year of the woman.” This progressive mindset only intensified following the record breaking female announcements of the 2020 electoral cycle— Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), and Mariane Williamson — appearing for a moment, that the future might, in fact, be female. But that moment has proven to be fleeting.
Recent pollings exemplify the disparaging effects of sexism onto the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates as Democratic voters have prioritized the elusive notion of “electability.” A feat that holds implications of familiarity and precedence, making the path to political success for traditional White men much easier than for their female counterparts. Simply put, women aren’t being judged necessarily on their qualifications but perceptions of their authenticity.
Elizabeth Warren, now a leader in the polls, had accusations of artifice thrown at her in her very first week as a presidential candidate. During a social media livestream video, the Massachusetts Senator paused mid-sentence to declare, “I’m gonna get me a beer.” While this declaration may seem inconsequential, she faced backlash across the country, condemning her of inauthenticity. Since then, her campaign has had to exert additional attention to her bona fides.
In addition, the inherent sexist stereotypes and stigmas, the culprit behind misogny’s endurance, are critical in creating resistance to women’s leadership. This is displayed through the differing standards of likability women in positions of leadership and influence are held to. On the debate stage, female candidates are scrutinized for trivial qualities that men are not: such as, their tone of voice, clothing choices, and physical attractiveness. However, these petty qualities seem inconsequential to the disastrous effects ambition, confidence, and assertiveness can have for women.
Considering that our country has not had a woman president, it is pertinent to reexamine Hilary Clinton and her role as the only existing archetype. Clinton was a woman plagued with criticism, infamous for her cold, stiff, and emotionless exterior. This very persona profoundly contributed to her loss in 2016, implying gender may be more salient than one’s qualifications. This only continues to undermine female presidential candidates’ potential for advancement in the 2020 primaries, revealing electability to be thinly veiled sexism.
Electing women does not mean belittling or emasculating men; rather it demands that women be judged for their strengths and capabilities as human beings, not the strengths and capabilities assumed of their gender. The fact that a woman has not won does not mean a woman cannot; contrary to popular belief, presidencies have no gender.