When Old is New AgainFebruary 19, 2008
One thing I’ll say for this presidential election: I’m finding it much more interesting than usual. It’s gratifying to hear so many people across every age group actually talking about the candidates. But when I listen more closely I realize that some comments and observations I had thought obsolete are still very much in evidence — stereotypical perceptions of women in or running for leadership positions, in this case for president of the United States.
Several recent columns and articles describe this phenomenon better than I could in a short space. Nicolas Kristof’s interesting piece in the New York Times, “When Women Rule,” gives a plausible “pet theory” of why women continue to run into the old perceptions wall. Caryl Rivers, a Women’s eNews commentator, provides a view of the different Clinton versus Obama media coverage.
But the shocking news to me is that women are judging other women on outdated criteria. Why should we be included with those who, as Katie Heimer of NOW said, “trivialize female politicians by focusing on clothing, hair, taste in home decor”? Why do some women perceive a self-promoting woman as too aggressive but a self-effacing one as not strong enough? I know I’m generalizing here and that many women don’t feel this way, but the numbers who do are higher than I ever realized.
I look back through AAUW’s online museum and see the hard battles fought and the long roads traveled toward women’s equity and, ultimately, equity for all. Earlier members faced perceptions that, fortunately, we can look back on with an “it’s a non-issue now” attitude. My hope? That whatever discrimination candidates face today will one day be wiped out through education, common sense, and accurate, unbiased media coverage. Hmm … what is your hope?