Posted by: gbollinger | January 24, 2020

Women in Politics

The realm of politics is one that women have been attempting to break into as far back as the creation of the United States of America. However, trying to bring equality and fair treatment to women in this specific realm poses a unique challenge, as politics in and of itself is the concept that has always worked to suppress women’s leadership.

America was created into a legitimate country in 1776, but it was not until 1848, with the presentation of the Declaration of Sentiments at the Seneca Falls Convention, that any progress for women in politics was made. Over the years, slowly but surely, more progress has been made. However, as found in an article published by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutger University, the events that qualify as “progresses” may not appear so to the plain eye. In fact, many notable successes include failed, but attempted, runs for several political offices. When reading over this timeline of “milestones” in American politics for women, I found it very interesting, and almost sad, what was included. For example, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first women to run for the US House of Representatives, but was not eligible to vote and only received 24 votes out of 12,000. I found it oddly upsetting how tiny of victories women have been forced to celebrate because of how unbelievably difficult it has been to infiltrate the political world. It can be recognized, however, that no matter how minor the progress, it is still progress.

Since the 19th century, substantial progress has been made for women in politics, but new problems and roadblocks have arisen. In a future class reading, Rosalind Chait Barnett writes a piece called “Women in Political Office – The US Example,” in which she discusses how women in politics are viewed today. The new challenges that have developed include things such as the unfairness of women taking health leave from office as a result of being pregnant, how holding an office seems “unfeminine”, and relentless media scrutiny. The media has made it nearly impossible for women to win in any circumstance. If a woman is unmarried, she is criticized for being too tough, cold, and for not being “feminine” enough. On the other hand, if a woman is married with a family, she is labeled as being “risky”: will she have enough time to properly hold office? how will she be a good mother to her children if she is in office? Not only does this media scrutiny seem simply idiotic, but it is unfair as men do not receive anywhere near the amount women do. Additionally, although these new challenges have formed, many old ones have not gone away. The capability and qualification of women in politics is, somehow, still in question. Many women, including some like Hillary Clinton and Jane Swift, have an impeccable resume, with qualifications that many men would kill to have. On the surface, it may appear as though women have fully broken into politics, but that is not the case quite yet.

So the question that now remains: what’s next? There is no one or correct answer, but the important message is that women must continue to work hard and persevere through the many challenges they face. The world of politics is complicated and tough, but one that is made for everybody, which, yes, includes women.

What are your thoughts?

https://cawp.rutgers.edu/facts/milestones-for-women


Responses

  1. I also found it interesting that the milestones included were so small. Although they are technically progress in politics, it is very slow. Even today, the number of women in politics is low, especially compared to men. From 2010 to 2019, there were still so many “firsts” for women. Most included women of color or of the LGBTQ+ community. This just goes to show how much harder it is for women of color or different sexual orientation to make it through the labyrinth we have been discussing in class. I was also not aware of the women that had tried to run for president before Hillary Clinton. I always assumed that until recently, only men ran for president. This is concerning to me, that all of my life I had just accepted and never questioned why there was never a woman president. This upcoming election was the first in history to have more than two women competing for the same major party’s presidential primary election, and that blows my mind. It took us until 2019 to have only 6 women run for president.

  2. Learning and reading about the Seneca Falls Convention in class last week was definitely a first for me. Like many of my peers, I feel as though the education system throughout middle and high school (and even college) has failed to educate me in the many areas that women have succeeded. The Seneca Falls Convention was touched upon in my earlier education, however it wasn’t until we were assigned to read about it for Women and Leadership that I felt I actually understood what happened there. The fact that this is my (as well as other women’s) reality is extremely disappointing. How can we expect women in both my and younger generations to want to step up and lead if they aren’t being taught about the amazing women who did it before?

    I definitely agree that progress has been made, however there are still roadblocks and hoops to jump through. In a chapter that we read for class, Eagle and Charli discussed women in the military and the idea that in order to be considered “equal” with their male peers they have to outperform them. I think this relates well to many – if not most – fields. I believe that if we properly teach the generations about things such as the Seneca Falls Convention and women in leadership roles, we can begin to chip away at the biases that are present in the workforce.

  3. You explained that women are facing challenges in the workplace because a women holding a position in an office is seen as “unfeminine”. In the Early and Carli reading, they discuss the double bind that women face in the workplace. This reading explained that women are expected to be a communal leader meaning, they avoid being overly assertive, dominant, and they are helpful and warm towards their employees. This kind of women leader is what people expect so when a women possesses more agentic leader qualities they are thought of as unfeminine and are easily disliked. These agentic leaders possess confidence, are direct and assertive and are able to exert influence easily over others. It is extremely difficult for women to find the middle ground where they will be most effective in leading. Like you said, they are stuck between being too feminine or not assertive enough to the point of gaining the respect of fellow employees. I think that women should not have to so cautious about how they lead because men rarely think so intensely about their leadership styles and they still get the promotions and raises much easier than women.

    I agree that any progress is progress but, for women this has been occurring at a declining rate compared to the initial advancement of women in politics. I agree with Mackenzie in that educating the younger generations about things like Seneca Falls and women in leadership positions will help the advancement of women equality in all aspects of life. Educating the youth will show them that women are just as capable as men to lead and may encourage young women to step up and fight for those leadership positions.

  4. This article, and your post, further elaborate how gender is absolutely still an issue, especially in politics. It seems as though women can’t ever win. There seems to be no perfect set of emotions, a woman is either too “this” or too “that”. Is there such thing as a “perfect woman?” What would make the population masses settle and be okay with a female leader or a female in politics in general? It is exhausting. I found it particularly heart wrenching when you made the comment, “how tiny of victories women have been forced to celebrate because of how unbelievably difficult it has been to infiltrate the political world.” It is incredibly valuable to take note of any victories that women make, for their progress took years. However, it is also worth noting that no matter the effort, women are still not making the same progress as men. For a nation that so “values” its women, the United States is ranked 73rd in women’s political empowerment. How have the strides women have taken since the Seneca Falls Convention, not landed their country into higher rankings?

    Obviously, women are struggling to get through the Labyrinth that they face. I believe that one way for women to get out of this maze it to help each other. Creating support groups, staying humble, and supporting each other will make mass changes. While women should make a seat at the table for themselves, they should also extend it to the other women who are standing against the wall. Women should remain humble, and remember from which they came. Most women struggled to get to their CEO or other higher-level positions, and should therefore be understanding and more eager to help, aid, and promote other women that they work with. They can do this by giving them their secrets of success, explaining exactly what the company wants from them, or how they can deal with other colleagues. No secret is too small.

    Overall, although women are not yet completely inside of politics, I believe that there is hope. Everyday, women are having conversations, becoming more savvy, and understanding the Labyrinth. Although their victories may have been small, they accumulate to so much more. When women lead, no matter how many there might be, it will continue to inspire other women. As more women become leaders, the more normalized the idea of women in leadership will become. There is hope for women in politics.

  5. Personally, I feel that accomplishments made by women, especially in politics, are often expected to be low. For example, in my Social Policy class today we were looking at how many Virginia legislators were women. The number of women was not equal to the number of men but still my professor commented that the number of women was good and a definite increase. It is frustrating to me that people find growth admirable when in reality women deserve equality. The statement from a previous class reading that if we were to continue our same rate of growth in terms of equality, women would not be equally represented in the US Congress until 2117 is not something that deserves the title of an accomplishment. Equality and equity deserve the term accomplishment and anything less should be deemed unacceptable and a reason to fight for more.

  6. I would agree that the strides made by women in politics are a start. There should be more positive coverage of women in political office or running for political office in public schooling and in the media. The double bind is extremely relevant in this area as we have stated. The public is looking for the “perfect” female leader to become president or other elected official while the standard for men is a much lower bar. This past presidential election many were against both main party candidates for many reasons, but if we strip back to barebones qualifications, the female candidate had leagues more political qualifications, and did not take office as our president. All bias aside, the public seems to let perceptions of females, even after childbearing/raising years, dictate their opinions of whether or not they would be good leaders much more than that of their male counterparts. Women are more than half of the population, and are still grossly underrepresented in our government because of the perception that men and women alike have pushed onto women in power. I agree that the way to stop this double bind in its tracks is for women to support women, and to include men along the way. We have placed women in a box of stereotypes for way too long. In class we spoke about rewriting our own narrative about assertive, powerful women. This rewriting should be the norm of our culture. If every person that encountered initial opposition of women in political power reevaluated their source for said opposition the tides would change, and the best candidates would be picked regardless of the way society says they should present themselves.


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