Growing Sexism in American Politics?

Posted on November 9, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

As you can tell from the scorecard of new committee chairmen, the House of Representatives remains the domain of white men. The Senate is no better.

Sure there are dozens of women in the House and the Senate, but now that Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California will be forced to relinquish her gavel to the Republicans, that leaves few women powerhouses in the legislative branch.

Why? Some believe the best and brightest are being scared off by sexism bubbling just below the surface of American politics. In fact, it bubbled over repeatedly during this fall’s congressional midterm elections.

“It looks as if we’re going backward rather than forward,” Siobhan Bennett, president of the Women’s Campaign Forum Foundation, said in an excellent piece on the subject in the New York Times.

“Man-up.” It became the battle-cry of one of the shining female figures in American politics, former VP candidate Sarah Palin, the tea party darling and a front runner for the GOP presidential nomination. But was Palin really suggesting that all politicians are at their best when they’re acting manly?

Then there were clearly sexist attacks on a number of women candidates, including Pelosi whose ouster as speaker was celebrated to the tune of “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead” in some quarters. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s hair and catty remarks about it by her GOP opponent, Carly Fiorina, were in play in California. And Delaware Republican senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell was attacked for engaging in a one-night stand and for her appearance “when the underwear came off.”

Of the four Republican Senate candidacies only Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire won. And while eight GOP women candidates won in the House, 9 Democratic women lost for a decline in the number of women in the House for the first time since 1978.
The Times piece pointed to a new initiative called “Name It, Change It,” designed to draw attention to instances of political sexism. This is a good start.

If women are to regain the momentum that brought them growing political power, sexism, even the veiled kind, cannot be tolerated particularly at the local levels where tomorrow’s leaders are being molded.

“You elect any woman, of either party, and you have a harder-working woman … a leader who will be paying more attention to education, to quality of life,” Bennett said.

“Having more women in elective office is essential to the long-term health of our nation,” she added.

Click Here to See the Rutgers study on Election Results and Women, 2010

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