More women need to run for office
Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 16:08
Friday will mark the 91st Anniversary of Women's Suffrage, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote.
Though U.S. women have been voting for about 91 years, when it comes to actually holding elected positions, the U.S. ranks 67th in terms of women's representation. To be more specific, the number of women in statewide elective posts is 69 and the number of women in state legislatures is 23.6 percent.
These numbers showcase a huge lack of female representation in government. And though the numbers themselves are appalling, they are certainly not surprising. We live in an extremely sexist society filled with double standards that have over time aided in fostering a male-dominated political realm. Most women never even consider running for an elected position, and when they do, they are met with huge opposition.
Hillary Clinton is a perfect example of this. When campaigning for the Democratic National Committee's 2008 presidential nomination, Clinton was constantly criticized for her appearance more than her actual politics. When Bill O'Reilly questioned Marc Rudov, a radio talk show host, on the downside of having a woman president, he initially joked about the topic, according to MediaMatters.org.
"You mean besides the PMS and the mood swings, right?" Rudov said.
Even female reporters did not shy away from insulting Clinton in very crude ways. There was even one instance when Robin Givhan of the Washington Post reported on the amount of cleavage Clinton was showing on the floor of the U.S. Senate. For sure, this discussion was unnecessary and inappropriate.
Breaking the glass ceiling of an elective position is extremely difficult within the U.S. and around the globe. This is also quite ironic since a recent global survey asserted that both males and females consider a government to be more democratic when more women are present.
If citizens really do want more female representation in elective office, then why are women so underrepresented in these positions? One answer lies within the realm of campaign finance. Elections are incredibly expensive and create a significant barrier against women's full, equal representation and participation in politics. As a result, women are often discouraged from even running for office because of the cost. In addition, campaign donors are more willing to support male politicians when compared to women based on the assumption that politics is a "man's world."
When women do enter into an elected position, they feel pressure to work even harder than their male counterparts. Women in the House of Representatives introduce more bills, participate more vigorously in key legislative debates and give more of the one-minute speeches that open each daily session when compared to their male counterparts. According to a National Public Radio article, this hard work is due to the fact that American women must act like men if they expect to succeed in politics.
With all of this said, we can conclude that the U.S. has a poor track record of electing women, and the last election only underscores the problem. The number of women in Congress has dropped to 16 percent, and the number of women in state legislatures declined by nearly 80 seats – the sharpest drop in four decades. This next election is our time to change that. One campaign that aims to shift the political gender is the 2012 Project. A national non-partisan campaign, the 2012 Project is working to increase the number of women in Congress and state legislatures.
Though campaigns like these are fantastic, it is up to us as community members to not only encourage women to run for office but to identify sexism when we see it and to break those pervasive double standards that exist within the politics of our lives. Small movements make a big change, and if we are to keep moving forward then we'll have to take those first few hard steps. The rest will soon follow.