Written by Jada Dukes, Staff Writer
There is a long extensive history of strongminded and intelligent women having a lasting influence on the government and its policies dating all the way back to the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Seneca Falls Convention. For years women have had to prove themselves to be intellectual beings with the mental capacity to hold conversations that touched on topics beyond the elementary, and sadly this fact is still true.
As many know the 2016 Presidential Election is rapidly approaching and amongst the many male candidates steaking their claim for the White House, there are two extraordinary women that have also decided to run for office. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy in the spring of 2015 and Republican candidate Carly Fiorina announced her presidential bid in the summer of 2015 and ever since they have been doing exceptionally well within their respective parties, proving that they are very capable women that deserve to be taken seriously as worthy competitors and yet they are conveyed differently in the media due to their gender.
The Huffington Post published an article focusing on the difference in media coverage for female and male politicians; the article is centered on a study conducted by Assistant Professor of Political Science and Mass Communication, Johanna Dunaway. The Louisiana State University professor’s research found that out of 9,725 newspaper articles covering senate and gubernatorial races in America, 6 percent of the stories written about elections with all male candidates focused more so on their character traits and that 55.5 percent of these articles focused more on political issues. Interestingly enough, in elections with both and male and female candidates running, the study found that newspaper articles focused on character traits 10.8 percent of the time and on real political issues 53.1 percent of the time. It is made very clear in this study that there is slight differences in the kind of media coverage female politicians receive versus the coverage received by their male counterparts.
While male politicians receive praise for being “cutthroat” and “go getters” it is the exact opposite for their female adversaries. When women possess these exact same traits they are often times referred to as “testy” or “ill tempered” by media outlets. Along with having their credibility and character questioned more often than men it is also perturbingly popular for the media to focus on the fashion choices made by female candidates and to comment on their overall appearances which directly supports the idea that when it comes to women in the media it’s less important how well they do their job and more so how good they look while doing it. There are countless articles written about both Clinton and Fiorina that are centered on everything except political issues, things such as hair color and who is able to conceal their wrinkles the best.
A Los Angeles Times article was published around the time Clinton’s announcement video was released and in it the reporter said “flattering lighting and professional hairstyling aside, the Clinton that announced her candidacy on a YouTube video Sunday looked every bit of her 67 years.” It aids to mention that the reporter never touched on topics talked about in the video but instead went on to praise Clinton for her willingness to age while in the public eye.
It is no secret that women, just like every other creature on earth, do age with time and with age comes wrinkles in the skin, but the question here is what does this have to do with politics? Fellow Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is 74 years old and is in fact sporting a few wrinkles as anyone of that age would, but this receives absolutely no media coverage and the big question here is why? Why is it that Sanders is judged on nothing but his platform and his stance on political issues while the former Secretary of State is forced to be the focus of such trivial and downright demeaning topics?
Fiorina is unfortunately not excluded from the petty and sexist ways of today’s media. Although the author and former CEO of Hewlett Packard says that she’s used to being treated this way that in no way justifies how she is belittled and mistreated by not only the media but even her fellow running mates. While working for HP, Fiorina says she had to tolerate the same kind of scrutiny from her co-workers. She says she’s been called a bimbo while at work and even worse, the “B word.” This means that Fiorina was fully prepared for what was to come when she announced her candidacy. This also explains why Fiorina is able to handle the likes of men like Donald Trump. Trump who is known for his outrageous expressions and wonderful entertaining skills had this to say about Fiorina, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Could you imagine that, the face of our next President!?” When asked how she felt about Trump’s statement, Fiorina made a whimsical expression and calmly said, “ I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
The real question is do the women of America hear very clearly what is being said about these strong and ambitious women? It is sad that the society we live will praise women who do nothing but post meaningless photos on social media sites practically selling their bodies for fame, but in the same instance will tear down and demean women who deserve all the praise; the women willing to fight off stereotypes and misogyny and put their necks on the line for the sake of all women everywhere. The most crucially important question is when are the women of today’s society going to stand up against this ridiculous mistreatment. When are they going to stand up for the women who stand up for them and stop worshipping the women who don’t?
I never even noticed this before but it’s so true! Will definitely be paying closer attention to the ways sexism pops up in candidacy coverage from here on out.