Feminist’s disclosure: Women in politics

Facing double standards, underrepresentation

By Leila Salam

Immense progress has been made for women in politics in the past four years. In the 2018 midterms, a record number of women were elected to Congress, now holding 144 out of 539 seats, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2020, Kamala Harris became the first female vice president, and the Biden administration appointed a 48% female cabinet, the highest percentage of women in history.

While these are all notable steps in the right direction, there are still fundamental inequalities between men and women in politics. Women are significantly underrepresented in Washington, while those who have been elected face unwarranted obstacles, and are often not taken seriously as leaders. It is past time for these inequities to be corrected, and for our country to progress past gender barriers in politics.

Female politicians are judged at higher standards than their male counterparts and are likely to be criticized more harshly for their personal matters or past mistakes than male politicians, according to Mercury News.

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Additionally, female politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris were written off by many voters as unlikeable and abrasive, judgments researchers say are deeply influenced by gender bias, according to the New York Times

Research shows voters are also more reluctant to vote for female candidates they find unlikeable than they are to vote for male candidates they find unlikeable.

These selective criticisms are merely an excuse for voters to justify their inherent biases, and they wouldn’t occur if voters made an effort to check themselves. Americans need to start perceiving female politicians as capable and competent leaders who belong in the field.

These double standards are ludicrous, and they need to be deconstructed if the U.S. is to ever achieve true progress. By moving forward and granting female politicians a proper voice in government, the country will be closer to the representative democracy our founders envisioned it to be.

A major part of the problem is women are still not as accepted or encouraged to pursue careers in politics. Despite their increasing presence in recent years, 26.7% of congressional seats being held by women is still hardly an adequate reflection of the 50.8% female U.S. population. 

If we are able to encourage more female candidates to run and be elected to public office, their roles as politicians will eventually become more normalized, and they will suffer from less undue criticism. In fact, the only reason record numbers of women were elected to the 117th Congress in the first place was because more women ran than ever before. This accentuates the need for more female candidates and political campaigns.

It is crucial that voters continue to push for greater female representation in politics and ensure those who are already serving as elected officials are being held to the same standards as their male counterparts. Ultimately, it is time for these widespread, harmful double standards to come to an end.