Calling Out Political Sexism, One Candidate at a Time

September 14, 2010

We’ve all been there. You’re watching television or scanning through the most-read stories online and the commentary about a female politician is about her dowdy outfit or temperamental response to a reporter’s question. You notice that male politicians are almost never judged on this irrelevant criteria.

Name It. Change It.To combat this often seen, seldom acknowledged double standard, the Women’s Campaign Forum, Women’s Media Center, and Political Parity have launched Name It. Change It. Through this initiative, the organizations hope to call out political sexism in the media and ensure that each of us does our part. You can sign up for action alerts, report sexist incidents in the media, and take a pledge to “create an overall media culture in which sexism and misogyny have no place.”

Women often cite fear of media scrutiny as one of the top reasons they don’t run for office. More women seem to be running—this year’s midterm elections include many high-profile female candidates, and the Republican Party is calling 2010 the “year of the woman.” But the losses these women candidates have experienced in the primaries might be a dark omen.

If this losing trend continues, this year could be the first election since 1978 where the number of women in Congress actually declines. Just last week, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) loss in her primary, questions were raised about who could fill her leadership posts in the Senate since, without Murkowski, only three women GOP senators remain in office.

One simple thing each of us can do to change the political culture for women candidates is join Name It. Change It. Another way to promote women politicians is to get involved with AAUW’s Elect Her initiative. Through this initiative, you can encourage more young women to run for campus office, since studies have shown that women who participate in student government are more likely to run for political office later in life. Apply by September 15 for an Elect Her—Campus Women Win training and make sure to nominate women you know of all ages (including yourself) to run for any level of office through the Women’s Campaign Forum She Should Run program.

Kate Farrar By:   |   September 14, 2010

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Maryfran Troha says:

    This prejudice towards women of only good appearance begins so early, as in, “Well, if she hasn’t looks, maybe she has brains.” Not only does a woman need to be a “looker” in politics, it extends to news personalities. CNN is the only news group that seems to allow other than svelte women on camera, i.e., Kathy Crowley. But I assume she must be glammed up in order to face the cameras. We simply can’t expect every woman to “look her best” in order to be considered viable. Sarah Palin is an example of a candidate who is good looking (consider the money spent on this!) but certainly painfully lacking in credentials. We must fight our own sexism.

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