The United States ranks ninety-eighth in the world for female representation in its legislation, just behind Kenya and Indonesia. For a country that prides itself on forward thinking, freedom, and opportunity, the United States harbors a culture of sexism surrounding politics, and this low number of female representation is unacceptable. Women are blatantly discriminated against in the media, and this sexism carries into the public opinion of political candidates and creates a culture of negativity towards female politicians. Women must therefore work much harder in a political race to counteract the already negative perception the public has of them. By understanding the cause of limited female representation in politics, Americans will be better equipped to counteract it.
Women lack the professional confidence to run for office because media force them to believe that they are less qualified than their male colleagues. Furthermore, other men and women do not support or recommend them to run for political positions due to their similar views on gender roles. Without the support of others or the confidence of their own to run for office, women have very little desire to run for political positions, especially powerful positions in Congress or the Presidency.
Women who do decide to run for a political position face even more barriers; continued negative media about female politicians perpetuate gender roles after they run for office. Rather than focusing on the policies and campaign ideas of females, media frequently focus on the appearance, clothing, and family of the candidate. This further discredits the woman’s political influence and success by undermining her qualifications for the position. Focusing attention on superficial qualities of the candidates not only transfers focus from their policies and political opinions, but it causes the public to associate her with appearance rather than political actions and power. The women then must compensate for the fact that the public will assume they will be too weak to successfully hold the position. Males running for the same position can focus on policies, while the disadvantaged women need to focus on showing the right amount of strength while simultaneously not seeming emotionless and still ensuring that their policies are understood and supported by the American people.
As a woman hoping to become involved in politics, the issue of sexism in our society is exceptionally pertinent to my future occupation, and research on the subject is therefore necessary on my part. The issue here is not the possibility that I personally will face discrimination while working in politics, but that instead of combating as a whole the sexism rooted in our society, the issue is ignored and female candidates are forced to search for tactics in order to seem ‘less of a woman’ to the public. The problem is that women spend a sizeable amount of time working to counteract the pre-perceived negative traits they possess ‘simply because they are women’. The problem is that since I will be directly affected by sexism in my career, it is my job to work longer hours not to win a political race or gain competitive edge, but in order to perchance be perceived as equal to my male colleagues. The problem is that sexism is not just a women’s issue, it is everyone’s issue, but it is not treated as such.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my education at an all girls’ preparatory school, I have begun to wonder whether it sheltered me from the reality of our society. There, I was led to believe that each of my ideas has value, that I was much smarter just as smart as our all boys’ school counterpart, and that while the world definitely is not perfect, as long as I worked hard I could achieve what I wanted. While I continue to work hard and believe in my own intellect and ideas, I cannot stop others from disregarding all of this simply because of my sex, and neither can any other woman, no matter how educated or qualified she may be. That is why the issue of sexism in politics is not solely my personal issue, or my family’s issue, or even a local issue. Sexism in politics is a national and global issue and it needs to be addressed if any type of equality is to be achieved. It is not until sexist American culture changes that we will see an increase in female politicians, and starting with more equal media coverage of men and women is the first step in the lengthy process.