September 13, 2018

Why two parts? Because one show simply isn’t enough to adequately cover the pervasive and unfair way in which the media covers female candidates.

As long as we turn a blind eye to it, it will continue to fester.

We have to see it, recognize it for what it is, and then object in unison and en masse.

But, before we jump back into the media coverage muck, it’s also nice to take every opportunity to see, recognize and appreciate history when it advances a positive cause. And, this news is something we can all celebrate: For the 2018 midterms, six senate races and 26 US House races feature all-women in the general elections. Those are historic numbers. So, yay for us…

Remember the award-winning documentary directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom called, Miss Representation. It made a lot of waves and ignited a lot of healthy debate when it first premiered almost a decade ago – exploring how the media and culture-at-large contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. Sadly, if you watched Miss Representation today for the first time, it would be equally as prescient as it was way back in 2011.

According to the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, “Women’s appearance is under a microscope—or perhaps more appropriately, in the headlines—far more often than her male counterparts’.”

We pulled a few more sexist (if not slightly creative) headlines for good measure. And, they were not difficult to unearth.

Last year, amidst Brexit, a SCOTTISH SUN headline read, “Nicola Sturgeon out-shoes Theresa May with Crocodile-Skin Stilettos for crunch Downing Street Meeting.”

And, because we all know it’s so important for women to smile “just so,” in 2016 a DAILY MAIL headline screamed, “Could Hillary Clinton’s Smile Cost Her the Election?”

Jayme Stevenson, who was defeated last month in her run for lieutenant Governor in Connecticut, was thoroughly annoyed by the countless men who told her she should “smile more” when she’s on the stump…(as if anyone would say that to a male candidate.) This experience inspired her campaign logo: A BRIGHT YELLOW SMILEY FACE. She handed them out where ever she went, her own personal stealth protest against this double standard.

All of this evidence begs the question, once again, are we being bias by only calling out the headlines that are critical of women’s appearances? Certainly, almost every cartoonish depiction of Barack Obama emphasized his ears, and same goes for AG Jeffrey Sessions, a trend dating all the way back to the 1992 presidential election and Ross Perot… And almost every illustration of the current president emphasizes his… girth. But, there’s something that just feels so much more insidious when journalists write about women in an effort to objectify or dismiss them.

According to the Global media monitoring project, nearly half of all news stories reinforce gender stereotypes. And women are five times as likely as men to be portrayed in their roles as wives and mothers than men are as husbands and fathers.

When, Susan Bysiewicz, now candidate for lieutenant governor in Connecticut, was running for the first time and campaigning door to door, she was handing out her business cards with photos of her husband, and her then 5 month old daughter. A man answered the door, looked at the card, and said, “you should be home taking care of your baby.”

The media’s sexist depiction of female leaders is a very serious issue and one that must be lessened if not entirely eliminated if women are ever going to have the luxury of racing on an even playing field.

And, its serious because these depictions have dire consequences. It’s not bad enough that voter perception of female candidates is compromised – But, the media’s endless obsession with the appearance of these female politicians is putting young women off going into politics. This according to research conducted by a UK based nonprofit called “GirlGuiding.”

In other words… the media obsesses on women candidates’ looks, the candidates’ perceptions suffer, fewer girls run, the nation suffers.

On the positive, according to http://PresidentialGenderWatch.ORG, “studies of the media coverage of female and male candidates running for mayor, governor and the U.S. Congress in the late 1990s through the 2014 election in newspapers and on television have found more equitable treatment. Notably, however, the increasingly equitable media environment for female candidates does not seem to extend to those running for president or vice president.”

Years ago, it would have been unheard of for a female candidate to talk about makeup and fashion, for fear it would jeopardized her credibility.

Well… this year, a week before her stunning primary victory in New York, at 9:45am on June 17th, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez threw caution into the wind and tweeted the following:
“I have been getting many inquiries about my debate lip color in the last two days. I GOT YOU. It’s Stila “Stay All Day” Liquid in Beso. (Lipstick emoji)

And, guess what? No media backlash. Only a whole lot of retweets from women who were admiring her style! Alexandria was running like a girl, and she wasn’t apologizing for it!

Also, we’re examining social media and how it has become a necessary tool, or shall we say, necessary evil for political campaigns.

And, in our Candidate Spotlight, meet Jeannine Lee Lake, who chose to run as a direct result of the election of Donald J Trump. She’s going head to head for a congressional seat in Indiana against Mike Pence’s older brother, Greg.

Special thank you to our wonderful sponsors!

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