Women have a prominent place in politics. It is most likely either as the role of the crazed, feminist politician — who presumably has no chance of becoming president — or the tempting mistress who ruins the campaign of the once promising male politician. Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann certainly are not perfect presidential candidates, but what candidate has been? If a woman presidential candidate is not attractive, persistent without being pushy and smart and youthful without being immature, society writes her off as just another stereotypical hormonal and controlling housewife. This hypocrisy must end.
Bachmann is the most recent example of this injustice. Politicians, regardless of gender, must realize that putting themselves in the public eye immediately subjects them to criticism. However, a certain line must be drawn as to what constitutes attacks on policy and agenda and what is critical for a purely sensational story. The Huffington Post recently published an article titled, “Michele Bachmann’s Makeup Woes Continue At Book Signing,” complete with zoomed-in photos and a scathing description. Though, to be fair, this article is placed in the Life and Style section, and most people do not read the Huffington Post to get fashion tips. But that means readers, who were possibly looking for more political news, unknowingly judged Bachmann on the foundation creases on her forehead, not her ability to run a country.
Bachmann will most likely not be the Republican presidential candidate. It was Bachmann who put herself in that position, not the media or society. However, when America does have a woman who has experience and proves herself to be assertive, as did Hillary Clinton, she is scorned for being pushy, aggressive and old. In men, these qualities are usually considered to be “getting things done,” but in Clinton’s case, it was her biggest downfall. Clinton was criticized for wearing baggy pantsuits and hair clips — giving her a “manly” appearance as described by well-known stylists. This made her seem too intimidating, which caused citizens to have trouble identifying with her.
What seems to be a growing trend for women in the political arena is the position of the fame hungry mistress. Substantial time is spent trying to uncover the “real” intentions of these women. The recent scandal involving GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain certainly made Cain look bad, but it also sold the story that these mistresses were trying to ruin Cain’s campaign for five minutes of fame and a check. Regardless of their intentions, these women are never portrayed as being victims of sexual misconduct, which very well may be the truth.
This is a two-way street. Women in prominent political positions are not that prevalent. Therefore, they must realize that they represent women as a whole. Men represent an extremely high percentage of politicians, so their decisions, for the most part, are representative of themselves. Women do not have that luxury. Palin, using her vice presidential candidacy as a way to gain fame through her own reality show and two book deals, gave future women in politics one more hurdle to clear to prove that they are capable leaders.
Why is it that 89 countries surpass America in terms of women representation in government? It may be possible that America’s standards are just unnaturally high for not only women politicians, but women in general. Society expects women to be a perfect balance of powerful and demure, which is a lot to ask. There needs to be an end to the constant criticism of things like Bachmann’s makeup or Clinton’s strong personality, as both women are just attempting to fit the expected standards. Both parties have responsibilities. Women in the political landscape must have pure intentions, and the media needs to scrutinize more than just artificialities. Only then can there be hope for the future women of this country to be public figures and spearhead beneficial change.
Adrienne Roberts is an LSA sophomore.