Statistics show that women comprise about 25% of the United States of America’s state legislators. Some might wonder why. One answer is sexism in the media. A study by Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Bay Consulting shows that sexism in media coverage of campaigns does not encourage women to run for office and lowers a woman’s chance for winning an election.
The study focused on portraying two hypothetical candidates that are male and female. The voters were given a neutral, negative, or positive description of the female candidate’s appearance and were not given an appearance description for the male candidate. The study found that after voters heard language about the female candidate’s appearance, the voters are less likely to think the candidate is experienced, strong, effective, qualified, or confident.
Many would consider some of the following examples to be questionable with regards to sexism in the media, what do you think? Vogue Magazine did a profile of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, during which the senator’s husband mentioned that his wife lost weight and the magazine stated, “And no doubt remain attractive to her husband of nine years, who is two years younger than she.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called Republican Delaware Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell “irresistibly cute” and “attractive as hell,” and her “claim to fame is ‘I don’t know nuthin’.'” The Washington Post published a story about South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s endorsement of Mitt Romney that said Haley dressed like a “Real Housewife: fit, attractive and encased in suits that stop just below the elbow and just above the knee.”
No matter what type of media – radio, print, or broadcasting – descriptions of a female candidate’s appearance in media coverage has had a negative effect on their campaign, while their male constituents receive no negative consequences from the sexism in media.
For years, Hillary Clinton has been bashed by people in the media for her appearance, her sexuality, her laugh, her emotions, her age, her reproductive organs, being a grandmother, and being a woman.
Hillary Clinton has received plenty of sexist comments throughout the entirety of the media coverage she has received, especially during her time as first Lady. One example is during an interview in 1993 with CNBC journalist Katie Couric. Couric asked questions pertaining to the design of the dinner arrangements:
“Do you like doing stuff, Hillary, like saying: ‘Oh, I like that yellow table cloth with the red napkins!’ or whatever?” Couric said to Clinton. “Or looking at the centerpiece or things like that. Is that fun to you?”
“Yes. It is fun to me. I’m not in any way an expert,” said Clinton.
Hillary faced some controversy from the press ever since Bill Clinton became prominent in politics. Most of the controversy was due to the fact that she was an ivy league educated attorney and a full time working mother, which was an uncommon combination of the time. The first ladies before Clinton were Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan, who were both known as housewives, mothers, and women who helped their husbands achieve their goals before their own. Some people criticized Clinton for not being a good mother or for not being a good wife because she worked full time.
Even when Clinton ran for president, she was faced with sexist comments in the media and by the public, which were sometimes filled with outrage. Harvard’s Kennedy School did a study that found when voters saw a woman candidate to be power seeking, voters saw the candidate as being uncaring and they experienced feelings of moral outrage towards the candidate.
Even those who are not media professionals, but are featured in the media have an effect on women in politics. On Thursday, President Donald Trump was making headlines after he tweeted an attack on MSNBC Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.
I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the tweet and agree that it is inappropriate. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, “Obviously I don’t see that as an appropriate comment. What we’re trying to do around here is improve the tone, the civility of the debate. And this obviously doesn’t help do that.” Republican Representative of Kansas Lynn Jenkins appeared on CNN and Morning Joe to talk about the matter of sexist comments in the media and politics. Jenkins also Quoted Trump’s Tweet and replied with the following:
This is not okay. As a female in politics I am often criticized for my looks. We should be working to empower women. https://t.co/sV6WDE0EUD
— Lynn Jenkins (@RepLynnJenkins) June 29, 2017
Like Jenkins, there are women who hope to empower women and encourage more women to be in politics. For example, non-profit She Should Run supports, aides, and encourages women to run for office because they believe every one should have an equal chance to run for office and that women bring valuable perspectives to politics. Similar to She Should Run is VoteRunLead, which empowers women who are or want to be involved in politics by supporting and providing training classes all over the country. Running Start has a similar mission and also offers training classes, which reached it’s 10,000 participant in 2016. EMILY’S List is a political action committee that supports pro-choice democratic women who are planning to run or currently running for office.