50 Shades of Irrelevance

In Saratoga Springs, New York, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and GOP challenger Wendy Long came ready to defend their respective platform in the race’s only debate on Wednesday. The candidates heatedly debated important topics such as women’s health, foreign policy, taxes, job creation, and natural gas exploration. The debate, which was hosted by the cable networks NY1 and YNN, who got to ask the questions.

Then, during the ‘lightning round,’ moderator Liz Benjamin —a reporter from YNN from NY1—asked rapid fire yes/no questions that abruptly shifted from owning guns to sex.  Liz Benjamin, after glancing at her next question, chuckled lightly—seemingly already acknowledging its ridiculous nature—and asked, “Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey?” Both candidates joined Benjamin in the laughter and replied with a quick “No,” leaving an uncomfortable air to the room.

Research at NameIt.ChangeIt.
proves that unfair treatment of women candidates is extremely detrimental to their campaigns and implores us identify sexism by using the reversibility test, which states that if terms are being used for women that wouldn’t be used for men, it is sexist.  Would this question be asked if it had been a man standing at the podium?  Why were these two professional and qualified women asked about a saucy romance novel? Not only did it unfairly trivialize an otherwise well-worded and intellectual match, but asking the candidates about such a sexually explicit novel is essentially asking them about their sexual interests.  These comments lead the viewer to see these candidates in an unprofessional, inappropriate, and sexualized light—producing attitudes that gender stereotype and draw attention away from the issues at hand.

While it is a popular book that has swept media by storm, bringing Fifty Shades of Grey into a U.S. Senate debate is not only misplaced but extremely unfair to these women.  Although the moderator recognized the absurdity of the question, she nevertheless brought up a sexual topic that men would have never been subjected to.


Published by Kate McCarthy on 10/18/2012

« Back to More Blog Posts