Sexism in politics? You bet
One might be tempted to look at our global leaders and think that sexism was becoming a thing of the past, that women are finally on equal footing.
After all, major world powers – Germany (Chancellor Angela Merkel), Britain (Prime Minister Theresa May), and soon, hopefully the United States (Hillary Clinton, because no, not Donald Trump) – have women at their helm. Dozens of countries around the world have had female leaders, including Canada (Kim Campbell, ever so briefly).
But look a little closer at how they are treated even today, and the language used to refer to them and you will find all is not even on the political stage. For starters, it’s our obsession with their appearance or their “likeability,” instead of their message or competence.
For Theresa May, it’s the media obsession with her patterned kitten heels. Her victory was announced in one paper with the headline “Heel, boys”. And the media was so obsessed with Clinton’s hair that when her book “Hard Choices” came out in 2014, Clinton joked that the title could have been: The Scrunchie Chronicles, 112 Countries and It’s Still All About The Hair.
Setting aside the appearance of candidates, consider the abundance of sexist, misogynistic commentary in the U.S. presidential race. For example, you’ll probably recall Trump’s “blood coming out of her whatever” comment in reference to Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
And then there was this 1950s-style shocker last week, from Trump’s campaign manager. When Paul Manafort was asked to explain why women would vote for Trump, he said: “Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives. Their husbands can’t afford … paying for the family bills.” The interviewer was so surprised he asked: “Is that the 21st century talking? That’s their big concern? How their husband’s doing at work?” Manafort, refusing the out, replied: “Because they can’t afford their lives anymore. That’s the point.”
You might dismiss these examples because they came from the Trump campaign which is clearly stuck in a time warp. But this is the international stage. And these comments are from people who ought to know better if they viewed women as equals and cared about not further alienating them. So why say these things? Because they feel they can. Because there are enough people who view these remarks as acceptable that they feel comfortable voicing them.
Fortunately, women are speaking up against this misogyny in weird and wonderful ways. Like campaigns such as #PeriodsforPence and #TamponsForTrump, two initiatives created to protest Trump and his running mate Mike Pence’s views on women and reproductive rights.
Yes, women have come a long way. Thursday night, Clinton took the stage at the Democratic National Convention, the first woman to ever lead a major U.S. political party. That only took 240 years since the Declaration of Independence. Progress? Yes. But it is time to pick up the pace.