Women in politics are often labeled as highly emotional or overly sympathetic. These generalizing labels are placed on women regardless of the context of their political opinions. This negatively deters women from political involvement.
Society continues to uphold the stereotype of the reckless, emotional woman. It seems as though a woman’s political opinion is predicted before she can even open her mouth.
We need to move past this. I want to see more women in politics. I want to hear more female voices in policy discussions.
It is often assumed that women in positions of power allow emotion and empathy to influence all their actions. According to a 2018 survey conducted by the public opinion research organization Pew Research Center, United States citizens believe that women in business and politics are more compassionate and empathetic than men in the same fields.
Another survey from the same study concluded that participants view female political leaders as 41% more likely than men to serve as good role models for children. Through the study, it was supported that citizens also believe that women are more likely than men to maintain civility and respect.
This research is reflective of the stereotypes surrounding women’s ability to serve as strong leaders. Negative assumptions of female leadership cloud our perception. As a result, many women shy away from anything political out of fear of the unequal judgment they would face.
When women hold roles in politics, they are forced to cope with constant gender-based criticism.
One female political leader who often deals with this type of scrutiny is New York's 14th congressional district Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. At the time she was elected to office, Ocasio-Cortez was only 29, according to a CNBC article. She then became the youngest woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez spoke on public scrutiny in an interview with The New Yorker.
“I believe health care is a right and people should be paid enough to live,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Those are offensive values to them. But this ravenous hysteria — it’s really getting to a level that is kind of out of control,” Ocasio-Cortez said about her political peers who doubt her.
Female political leaders like Ocasio-Cortez are put under a microscope. It seems as though requirements for women in politics far exceed what is expected of men.
In The New Yorker article, Ocasio-Cortez provides a possible explanation for the criticism of women in leadership roles.
“The idea that a woman can be as powerful as a man is something that our society can’t deal with, but I am as powerful as a man and it drives them crazy,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
I agree with this statement. I think that society dismisses women as too emotional for politics because they ultimately do not want women in politics. People claim to support women in positions of power, then go on to label them as too empathetic, too emotional and too feminine to fill male-dominated roles.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s departure from the 2020 democratic primary sparked discussions on whether the U.S. is ready for a female president.
Warren’s decision to drop out of the race was announced quickly after she fell far behind the other candidates following the Super Tuesday primaries.
Although Warren was not a perfect candidate, as one does not exist, I do think that gender bias impacted her numbers. Warren spoke on the complexity of gender inequality in politics in a Washington Post article.
“Gender in this race, you know, that is the trap question for every woman,” Warren said. “If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner.’ And if you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’
As Warren explained, women who pursue careers in politics often have to avoid speaking on gender issues to be taken seriously. However, this is part of a woman’s battle when working in a male-dominated field. Women should be able to speak on gender issues and have a voice, even when that voice contrasts with what people want to hear.
Women should not have to silence their opinions out of fear of being dismissed. Society needs to rid itself of the belief that women are incapable of developing rational, informed and objective opinions. This is the first step in bridging the gender gap that is still so prevalent in politics.