Hillary Clinton And The Issue Of Gender Stereotypes In The Political Field

Did you know that only six countries give women equal legal work rights as men? That is one of the hundreds of statistics that represent the gender inequality that exists around the world. However, change is occurring, and it can be seen in politics. More and more women are stepping up and running for leadership positions despite stereotypes. For example, women have there has been an increase in women running for leader of their country. In doing so, these women become role models while showing that they will not allow gender biases to stop them.

There are a large number of gender biases and stereotypes about men and women, but they can be broken down into four categories. First, there are personality traits. One of the biggest misconceptions that women in the workforce face are that people assume they are too emotional. Men, but not only men, tend to be extra cautious with their words and actions towards women in fear that they will react unpleasantly or become visibly upset. In contrast, men are assumed to be apathetic, not letting their emotions be shown. Second, there are domestic behaviors. For centuries there has been this expectation that women belong in the home doing chores like cleaning, cooking, and starting/taking care of a family. At the same time, men are expected to go out and work every day to take care of the family. As we know, the roles can be switched, but society tends to look down on those who choose the path that does not fit the stereotype. Third, along the same lines, there are occupational biases. The most common bias is that the STEM fields are not for women and that women should stick to being homemakers, nurses, and teachers. Statistics show that “In 2017, women in the United States represented: 25.5% of computer and mathematical occupations, and 16.2% of architecture and engineering occupations”. Lastly, there is a physical appearance expectation when it comes to men and women, but this seems to be less of an issue in the workplace. Many people believe that women are supposed to be thin, wear dresses, and do their makeup. When it comes to men, they are supposed to be tall and muscular and wear pants and suits.

We can see the above-described gender biases and stereotypes in the political field, but many women are challenging them and making changes. For example, in the United States, in 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major political party. Because she became the face of the Democratic Party, the fact that a woman was running for the highest office became a big deal. However, in doing research, I have discovered that her loss has made an even bigger impact. People feared that because Hillary Clinton did not get the office, women everywhere would stop trying to take on big leadership roles. However, Clinton’s loss in 2016 has strengthened the feminist movement and has called for changes that promote gender equality. With that said, there is also growing concern that if Clinton, who has a strong personality, was unable to win the race, no woman can. It is clear that women in politics are held to a higher standard, need to prove themselves more, and overall, have to work much harder than their male competitors. For example, An April Suffolk University poll of New Hampshire Democrats asked those who said they wouldn’t vote for Warren why. A plurality, 18 percent, said it’s because she can’t beat Trump. (A noticeably high amount, 10 percent said it’s because “she seems angry” — another gender-related hurdle that research shows men don’t have to jump over to win votes). Although Hillary Clinton’s nomination as the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 2016 was certainly historic, she was not the first woman to try and take on the highest office.

The very first time a woman ran for the presidency in the United States was in 1870. At a time when women were still unable to vote, Victoria Woodhull wrote to the New York Herald announcing her intentions. The Equal Rights Party nominated Woodhull as its presidential candidate on May 10, 1872, and they advocated for women’s right to a fair wage which is an issue that continues to be fought for today. Her, and those who attempted after her, never got as close to the presidency as Hillary Clinton which contributes to why many are unaware that Hillary Clinton was not the first woman to enter the presidential race. Outside of the United States, women have been more successful. The first success came in Sri Lanka in 1960 when Sirimavo Bandaranaike became prime minister. Much of what I read about her and election discusses issues related to her lack of experience in politics before being elected, but it still was a clear victory for Bandaranaike. However, she did serve three terms, so it is clear that the fact that she was a woman had little effect on voters which shows the cultural differences from country to country. The most recent success was in Namibia in 2015 when Saara Kuugongelwa became Prime Minister. One of her biggest accomplishments is contributing to “Namibia’s progress in ranking 16th in the report’s global gender gap index, as compared to the country’s 38th position ten years ago. Further, the prime minister noted Namibia’s significant improvement in female representation at the legislative level, where the country has been lauded for a gender-inclusive parliament, and at the ministerial level, where women hold 38 percent of ministerial positions”.

There has always been a line in the sand separating men and women. Biases and stereotypes continue to limit women, but change is slowly happening. I have only discussed two cases of women’s success in becoming the leader of their country, but 57 other success stories show that the United States is struggling to end gender bias more significantly than people may realize. 

09 March 2021
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