By: Samah Atique
“Are you married yet?”
“You should smile more”
“Stop being so dramatic”
This is a short compilation of the comments that can be found with a simple scroll through the social media platforms of current female politicians. This objectification, sexualization, and obsession with the personal lives of women in politics is an issue that continues to plague the nation. Whether it be media coverage, interviews, their clothing, or comments from the president himself, these women have to continuously deal with the double standards placed upon them throughout history.
When questioned on this matter, presidential candidates Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren typically use different approaches in their responses. While Klobuchar has vocally addressed the sexism she has witnessed and experienced in races, Warren has generally avoided the topic. However, both addressing the topic head on and taking a subtler approach hold implications for the candidates. Publicly calling out sexism often leads to potential nominees being accused of playing the “gender card,” while doing the opposite is viewed as dismissive and enabling behavior. Klobuchar and Warren are prime examples, with the former being accused of using her sex to her advantage, while the latter has been accused of being angry and dismissive when diverging from inappropriate questions relating to her gender.
As absurd as these barriers are, they only account for a portion of the problem. With an elected president known for his blatantly sexist and disrespectful behavior towards women, the obstacles to combating political inequality become that much more difficult to overcome. His recent involvement in the anti-abortion march made him the first ever president to attend the annually held demonstration. In it, he made a speech discussing the importance of all lives, living or unborn, despite the circumstances. However, this Pro-Life agenda does not seem to apply when it comes to the defunding of cancer screening and preventative check-ups, the children who have lost their lives to senseless acts of gun violence with little to no change in gun laws, or the administration’s revival of the death penalty after a 16-year hiatus. The list goes on, but there seems to be a largely selective agenda on which lives should matter and which should be silenced.
Now you might be thinking: Well, don’t male politicians face similar backlash? Yes, and no. Although most, if not all, male political figures do have to deal with criticism on a regular basis, it is generally not rooted in systemic sexism and double standards. There will rarely be an instance of a male politician being questioned on how challenging it is running as a man or how he will balance potential fatherhood while in office. Until candidates can be judged solely on their political platforms, without voters and commentators fixating on their sex, equality in the political sphere cannot be reached.
Despite many historic wins in the 2018 midterm elections, with women now holding a record 23.5% of seats in Congress, the United States still ranks 75th globally in its representation of female candidates in government. This percentage does not even meet the 24.3% global average of female representation in national assemblies.
Striving for a larger number of female candidates in politics is by no means meant to depreciate or denigrate the work of their male counterparts. Instead, it would allow for further gender equality in the political sphere and a larger prioritization of the policy issues being considered. The current underrepresentation of women in politics not only results in the exclusion of their skills and unique perspectives in the field, but also undercuts the basic fundamentals of democracy and progressivism. After all, considering the female voice when debating salient issues regarding women does sound reasonable, right?