Sex and Politics
Two women are currently in the race to become the first female to be elected as the President of the United States of America. One calls herself a Conservative, symptoms mind and the other a Progressive. One has absolutely no experience in elected office while the other; most consider a legacy candidate with decades of experience in the political arena from the President’s Cabinet to the United States Senate. Although Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton have very little in common when it comes to their politics and where they stand on the issues of the day, cure they do share the white hot light that is acutely focused on their gender, cheap and how being a woman attempting to gain access to the oldest “Boys Club” in American history gives them a shared experience that brings equal rights for women and sex and politics to the forefront of political discourse.
Whether or not we make history in 2016 by electing the first woman as POTUS, this election season will certainly turn up the heat on the issues that uniquely and specifically have an effect on women and girls. All issues are on the table from reproductive rights to equal pay for equal work, to domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, common sense gun control, equal representation, paid family leave and much more. These concerns are not new; however, having two women running for the highest office in the land, who stand on both sides of the aisle gives us all an opportunity to meticulously un-pack and discuss them with a sense of urgency and purpose. There is yet another anomaly presented by having these women in the race for president, and that is the excessive focus on how they “look”, and whether or not they are too shrill, too emotional or too aggressive. (There’s another description that many use for aggressive that I will, intentionally, leave off the list.) It is clear that whether conservative or progressive, from one party or the other, these women are held to a different standard of assessment than their male counterparts.
Granted, Hillary Clinton has the unique circumstance of being the nation’s First Lady while her husband served as our 42nd President. However, she should not be held responsible for his administration, as she was not the one elected to the office. She has had a long political career in her own right and should be held accountable to the political positions she has espoused and not those of her husband. The spouses of the other candidates running for president have not been the target of questions or scrutiny thus far, unless we include the mean-spirited attacks on the wife of Dr. Ben Carson for her homely and unfashionable attire. This, again, is an attack that men rarely have to address. The optics of how women dress, speak, walk and move is continually scrutinized and the rubric for judgment is firmly located in sexism and sexist rhetoric. With the large sums of money being raised by Dr. Ben Carson’s campaign, it will not be long before the “powers that be” hire a professional stylist to “make over” both Dr. Ben and his wife, just as they took Sarah Palin and her family out of the Alaskan wilderness and made the former Governor Palin over into a fashion icon. That is “if” Carson indeed becomes the ultimate choice of the GOP as their candidate for President. That is a BIG “if” indeed.
What is clear is that women are a formidable voting block for 2016 and we intend to hold the candidates in the race, the pundits who cover them, and the standards by which they are judged accountable. We are calling for equal treatment for all the candidates, male or female, no matter on which side of the discourse they choose to stand.