Women fill only a paltry 20% of the seats in congress. But, progress happens in fits and starts and the 2018 midterm elections carry the hope of a giant step forward for womenkind (and mankind, by extension).
In our lifetimes, one thing we think we can ALL agree upon is that partisan politics has never felt so hateful and dangerous. It has forced a tectonic shift in the way Washington works, or more accurately, in the way Washington DOESN’T work.
We believe that the vast majority of us intuitively know that gender diversity is important. But really, how important is it? When we posited that question to citizens on the street, only one out of ten considered “gender” as the number one most important characteristic of any given politician.
We’re willing to acknowledge that gender parity in government would have a positive impact on our country, however – that doesn’t seem to be an important enough incentive to prioritize electing woman when the opportunities avail themselves.
In a survey conducted by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, for women candidates, there is a correlation between being “qualified” and being likeable. That’s simply not the case for men. Women face a litmus test that men don’t have to pass. Voters will support a male candidate who they think is qualified, even if they don’t like him. Not so much for women… Look no further than Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, arguably the most qualified and experienced presidential candidate ever to run for the office lost to arguably the most unqualified and inexperienced candidate… Political affiliations aside, it’s hard to deny that gender played into this. For decades, the majority of American women have leaned Democratic. Hillary’s policies were unquestionably democratic and she was definitely qualified. And, yet Trump outperformed Clinton among white women, winning 53 percent of voters in that demographic.
This is not us trying to re-litigate 2016, but it is us asking questions that we believe need careful and deliberate consideration
- What does it mean to be a “qualified” woman candidate?
- Why do people judge women’s qualifications different then men’s qualifications? In a fair contest, shouldn’t this be an apples to apples comparison?
- Is it possible that when a woman is overly qualified, this may carry a negative connotation for some voters?
And, to add insult to injury for these candidates, because qualifications and likeability are so closely linked, there are dual negative consequences for women when they make mistakes on the campaign trail. They are judged more harshly than men, and thus have more work to do in order to right their wrongs.
The BLFF research also found that women have got to look good AND be competent to have a shot at winning. But not TOO good, because that’ll hurt their credibility.
When asked why she always wore her signature pantsuits, Hillary called her uniform a quote, “anti-distraction technique: since there wasn’t much to say or report on what I wore, maybe people would focus on what I was saying instead.”
In other words, blend in with the boys or your ideas and your policies won’t get the attention they deserve. Forget about running like a girl. Run like a boy.
Voters want assurance that women can get the job done in the largely male game of politics. Unless and until we are able to reshape the perception that politics is ostensibly a “male game,” women will continue to race against unfair and unfavorable headwinds.
By significant margins, voters believe that it is more difficult for a woman candidate to appear “qualified” than a male candidate, and amongst focus groups, voters believe that women have to work harder and do more to achieve the same goals as men. These voters describe this as having extra hurdles or meeting a higher standard.
And, let’s face it: Voter perception about women is not the least bit surprising considering lack of representation.
And as if it’s not challenging enough to clear higher hurdles, the very fact of being a woman, or “running while woman,” is a disqualifying trait in and of itself. A new poll suggests that more Republican voters are more likely than the general electorate to say and believe that men would be more effective than women in leadership roles in government.
But the reality is, it’s simply a bogus assumption to infer that women can’t lead as effectively as men. In a recent session of Congress, female legislators passed almost TWICE as many bills
as their male counterparts.
In a study by the “Center for American Women and Politics,” on “Why Representation Matters”, a majority of the legislators they interviewed, “believe that women are more likely than their male counterparts to work across party lines.”
Compromise is a vital tool when it comes to moving things forward and passing legislation. Barbara Bush famously said, “I hate the fact that people think ‘compromise’ is a dirty word.” The outsized male egos in congress now, that are unwilling to give an inch to get a mile, are doing long term damage to our democracy.
As long as the government remains controlled by a male dominated culture, and as long as that culture continues to groom and promote people who look, talk and govern like them, women candidates will not only have to clear higher hurdles, they’ll have to do it while racing uphill, wearing an ill-fitting man suit..
Let this sink in: 11 states have NO women representing them in Congress. And, for the first time in 44 years, Maryland sent an all-male delegation to Congress in 2017. On the positive, Michigan is sending an all-female ticket to the midterms this year, headed by none other than Gretchen Whitmer… whom we’ll get to know more about on this episode.
We will also introduce you to a fresh new face in the person of Morgan Murtaugh. At 26 years old, this vibrant GOPer is youngest person running for Congress.
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