Don’t Be Part of the Problem

On Monday, Jill Lawrence wrote an article for The Atlantic that casually stated that there are few female statewide politicians in Massachusetts due to the fact that the women candidates have been “lousy.”

Without a doubt, it was a statement subtly tinged with sexism. Ms. Lawrence must have realized this, because the wording has since been changed from “lousy” to “less than stellar.” It is also worth noting that there is no “Editor’s Note” regarding the change located anywhere in the article.

Even after editing out the harshness, the misogyny is still present. The presumption that the state’s diminutive number of female politicians is caused by the candidates being “lousy” or even just “less than stellar” is both a gross misplacement of blame and an over-simplification of a deep-seated issue.

Although it may seem like an outdated notion, women are starkly underrepresented in political institutions. In fact, more than 20 states have never even elected a female governor. If Massachusetts is part of a statistic that encompasses nearly half of the country, there is clearly a systemic problem that needs to be delved into deeper.

Extensive research provides several key reasons for this significant gender gap. First of all, women are far less likely than men to be recruited to run for office. Secondly, they are less financially supported than their male counterparts. Finally, they face severe and often sexist scrutiny by the media while on their campaign trail; think about how often you’ve heard criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s makeup versus her accomplishments as Secretary of State.

Massachusetts is merely a microcosm of a nationwide gender gap that is rooted in sexism. Instead of denouncing their female politicians as “less than stellar,” we should address the real cause of the problem, instead of being part of it.

Published by Tessa Ross on 06/06/2012

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