Women in Politics


I’ve linked to a fair few stories over the last couple of years about women in politics, but with Clinton running for President and May as PM it seems that the subject is getting more media discussion so I thought I’d set up a dedicated thread.

I’ll start with Clinton. Hillary Clinton is an impressive politician, one of the most successful Secretary’s of State in recent years, and arguably the most qualified presidential candidate in history given not only her own political achievements but the fact she knows what the job entails, personally as well as professionally, from an angle that no other candidate has seen it. Yet the level of vitriol and disdain directed at her is incredible and far beyond any many (even Trump) has received. Luckily some are starting to realise the huge role that sexism plays in the double standards she faces. I particularly like this piece,

A disturbing history of all the sexism Hillary Clinton has endured — and why I stopped buying into it

"A mishmash of sexist tropes dominated the [2008] election: The media questioned the legitimacy of Clinton’s marriage and her sexuality. Some said she’s too emotional to be president while others claimed she’s not emotional enough to connect with voters like past executives-in-chief. She’s simultaneously too-devoted a grandmother to fully focus on national affairs and also a loveless woman who views her grandchildren as political props…

Female politicians are often judged by much different standards than their male counterparts. The current race is a prime example. A man with no political experience who’s a literal member of the rich elite is seen as an equivalent and more populist choice than Clinton, whose political qualifications are unmatched in modern history." [my emphasis]

7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton
A great listicle that, in essence, summarises many of the points raised by the first article.

“It’s distressing to see how little resemblance there is between Clinton’s actual record and the pictures commonly painted of her. It’s especially distressing to see how many progressives and liberals have bought into the decades-long right-wing smear campaign against her. But it’s unsurprising to anyone familiar with sexism. Women in the workplace and in public life can expect to have their accomplishments and opinions ignored, diminished and trivialized.”

Trump’s “alpha-male” paradox: How gender bias makes his behavior seem manly, no matter what
While this piece is about Trump it really highlights the double-standard placed on men and women in the public sphere.

I’ll end for now with a piece looking at the supposedly different approaches of men and women to politics,

The Myth of the ‘Female’ Foreign Policy
It’s an interesting article that looks at the history of women in politics and whether or not they have had a more ‘feminine’ approach to diplomacy. It seems not, but I’d argue that they were having to play by the rules rather than, as is finally becoming the case, making their own. The first example, that of Margot Wallström, Sweden’s foreign minister, downplays her efforts which seem to have been quite radical and progressive.



Swedish Government Boards Achieve Gender Parity After 28 Years of Work

It took 28 years to increase the proportion of women on government board by 23%. Given how progressive Sweden seems in comparison to many countries that’s a shockingly slow rate. The article doesn’t go into how they went about it so it’s hard to draw any conclusions but it does show how stubborn these things can be to change.



One of the great things about Hillary Clinton’s presidential nomination and the vitriol surrounding it is that the sexism is so blatant that people are starting to notice and discuss how it is that attitudes towards professional women really aren’t as progressive as we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking they are. She’s acting as a springboard for all sorts of discussions on issues that affect many women in all walks of life.

I think that the diversity of articles really shows the huge number of ways that women are judged far more than men.

Hillary Clinton’s ‘Angry’ Face
An article with science! Fascinating research that found that facial expressions of women are perceived as having an emotional source whereas those of men are perceived as having a situational source. Or as the researchers summarised,
“She’s a bitch, but he’s just having a bad day.”

To find Hillary Clinton likable, we must learn to view women as complex beings
Yes! Yes! Yes! to all this article. I want to quote it all, but I won’t, so instead I will summarise. The article explains how we are used to seeing men as complex beings. In real life and in film and TV they are shown as three-dimensional with strengths and flaws that make them relatable and likeable. Yet women are not given the same character development and this means that people end up pigeon-holing them, often harshly.

There is one part that I will quote because I think it is really important. It comes from Hillary Clinton and explains why she developed her perceived aloofness,

I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard. My friend and I were some of the only women in the room. I was feeling nervous. I was a senior in college. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. And while we’re waiting for the exam to start, a group of men began to yell things like: ‘You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.’ And they weren’t kidding around. It was intense. It got very personal. But I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t afford to get distracted because I didn’t want to mess up the test. So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room. I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.

She’s faced decades of this attitude.

What Hillary and Britney have in common: “There is no way you can actually do ‘being a woman’ correctly in the public eye”
This is a really good companion piece to the article above.

"Men have sex, have messy personal lives and even have mental health problems, she has noted, but they still get to be portrayed as heroes and artists: See, for example, the legacies of Lou Reed, David Bowie, David Foster Wallace, Hugh Hefner and Miles Davis.

But women? Women with the same kind of lives — Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, Kim Kardashian — are regarded as train wrecks, moral lessons for other women about the supposed dangers of being in the public eye instead of staying at home."

The Politics of Pockets
A fascinating history of pockets and the surprising politics that surrounds them. Worth a read if only to see the awesome victorian bikes!



Stop Pretending You Don’t Know Why People Hate Hillary Clinton

A brilliantly blunt piece that spells out the answer we all know.



Do Women Have to Talk Like Men to Be Taken Seriously? And Should They?

This is an interesting article on vocal trainers who teaches women in public life to sound authoritative without seeming aggressive (ah, the tightropes women have to walk!)



7 Sexist Critiques of Hillary Clinton — Not The Ones You Think

A great breakdown of the critiques Hillary gets simply because she is a woman. Like so many of these pieces, Hillary is just offering the most clear example of the many ways women are held back and judged for trying to make a career for themselves.

Forget This “Hillary Is Unlikable” Stuff. Hillary Is Downright Inspiring.
This post is a nice companion to the previous one as it shows how, despite all the criticism (and because of it) Hillary is an inspiring figure.

We don’t have “two historically unpopular candidates”: What the media gets wrong about candidate popularity
This is a really interesting piece looking at the popularity of the two candidates. It’s a lot more complicated and nuanced than I expected it to be. Well worth a read.

Let’s just think about this for a minute
A great piece that is a great companion to the ‘inspiring’ piece above, that highlights just how incredibly fine a line Hillary has to walk and how exceptionally well she does it.

[Clinton] walked onto the stage last night to face man who we’d all just learned had confessed, twice, to sexually assaulting women. Who had bragged about it. A man who has on two occasions implicitly called for her assassination. A man who has presided over rallies at which people are screaming about her: Hang the bitch; kill her; cunt.

She had to face him. She had, to finish this test, confront him about his abuse of women, which every woman knows is a dangerous proposition. She had to stand on that stage, in front of millions of viewers, locked in a battle with a man who was pacing like a caged beast with a rageful expression, telling her he’d throw her in prison if he could, and stalking her around the stage to intimidate her with his physical presence…

It’s an absurd and horrendous ask. And somehow she navigated it. So expertly, in fact, that I’ve not heard a single pundit—or anyone else, for that matter—even comment on the fact that she had to do it at all. That maybe it was quite unsettling for her to face Donald Trump and all his grotesque misogyny and incitement.



The US election has really highlighted how much more harshly women are judged than men. Whatever you think of Hillary’s politics, she is clearly one of the most capable and qualified candidates for president the US has seen in many decades and she is up against a candidate who has no experience and is surrounded by more scandal than probably all previous candidates combined. Yet simply because she is a woman she is having to fight this as if she were campaigning against Lincoln or Washington.

Poll: After Debate, Women Think Less of Trump and Better of Clinton
Title says it all.

In a Man’s World, Trump Would Still Win
538 looked at voting by gender and found that if only men got the vote, Trump would win by a landslide but if only women got vote Hillary would win by an even bigger landslide.

To add a bit of humour to the proceedings,
Sam Bee’s Take On Pussygate Was Worth the Wait
Sam Bee is a godsend in these times.



She shall overcome: After staring down misogynists for 68 years, Hillary Clinton faces one final hurdle in Donald Trump
A wonderful piece. If Clinton wins then this is the pitch for her biopic.

Hillary Clinton is an astonishingly gifted woman as well as a one-in-a-million role model for anyone who’s had to overcome great adversity to achieve great things. She might not be your BFF or mine, but she doesn’t have to be. Contrary to what we’ve been sold for too many years, a president doesn’t have to be a pal you’d have a beer with. If there’s a kernel of truth to her being typecast as a prickly, calculating technocrat, perhaps this is what it takes to shatter the political glass ceiling. You can’t really know for sure unless you’ve scrambled over the same trap doors. In service of the unfair, too-easy stereotypes about Clinton, she’s had to catch and absorb more bullshit than just about any other human being in politics, male or female, and she’s emerged from all of it as an unbreakable, wisdom-infused, presidential woman with as much or more potential to be one of our greatest chief executives than anyone who’s preceded her.



I’m writing this the day after the US election results so the articles on Clinton seem sadly poignant and somewhat naive. But I think they’re worth reading, not just despite but because of the result. There was a hope that her capabilities would shine through the misogyny but it was not to be.

The Moron’s Case For Hillary Clinton…because some of you really are that stupid.
A great list of Clinton’s achievements and why she is not ‘the lesser of two evils’ but a fantastic candidate in her own right.

Donald Trump’s locker room talk has given women a platform to talk about sexual assault
I wonder whether this platform will be maintained over the next four years…

Why do so many women oppose feminism? A psychologist explains
An interesting article that has relevance far beyond the election.

Hillary’s Win Alone Wouldn’t Revolutionize Women In Politics
While I agree with the piece that it will take more than a female president to change things for women in politics more generally, I do wonder how her not winning will give women pause.

What’s Behind the Hillary Hatred Syndrome?

“Thrown off balance by their genuflections before the phony god of false equivalency, journalists had to strain to prove that they were not in the Clinton tank. Drowning themselves and their audiences in trivialities, it became a point of weird professional pride to batter away at this woman who, when she wasn’t too wonkish, was laughing too hard; if she wasn’t smiling too much, she was smiling too little — one way or the other always refusing to know her place.”

The misogyny apocalypse: Turns out being white and male counts for more than intelligence, grace or decency
This is one of the only post mortem pieces I’ve read as I just can’t read that much at the moment. But I think it sums things up perfectly, from why women voted for Trump,

Rather than admit that the men in your life hate women, it’s easier to rationalize: Trump’s just joking around! Those feminists are oversensitive! Democrat Hillary Clinton really is a hateful shrew; it’s not just that she’s been demonized by the same misogynist forces that elevated Trump.

to how Clinton was in an impossible position,

Maybe if it had been another woman, it wouldn’t have been so bad. Clinton’s main problem — the reason she couldn’t coast into office on Obama’s high approval ratings — is sexism. But she has been the target of sexist stereotyping for more than two decades now, which has piled up so much baggage around her that it’s impossible for many people to see the real woman under all the wicked-witch stereotypes. Maybe another woman, one less well known to the public, would have been easier to like.

But then, of course, how would she have built up the experience to be competent enough to overcome ugly stereotypes about female inadequacy? Clinton only got this far by being smarter and better than every man in the room. A woman who doesn’t have that doesn’t have a chance.

Moving away from the US elections,
The breastfeeding Icelandic MP isn’t the story. What she was arguing for is
An Icelandic MP got a lot of praise for breastfeeding in parliament, but the story was more complicated.

Threats of death and violence common for women in politics, report says
It’s a small sample size but it’s still a shocking result.

More than 40% of female MPs interviewed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) said they had received threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction while serving their terms, including threats to kidnap or kill their children.

More at the article.

Rwanda reborn, brought to you by women
A really inspiring article that shows how Rwanda has gone from being a country known only for genocide to a country transformed through the empowerment of its women.



One I missed,

A Brief Reminder That for Women in Politics, Sexism Is Casual and Routine



Another couple I missed,

[The Men Feminists Left Behind][1]

What this campaign has shown us is that while feminism has transformed American culture, our politics and the lives of women, men haven’t evolved nearly as rapidly. Women changed. Too many men didn’t. What happens next?

[Older Women Share What Voting for a Woman President in 2016 Means to Them][2]

This election means everything to me because these three little girls mean everything to me and they deserve to live in a world where they are treated equally and respectfully. I’m a smart person so why would I vote for a fucking lunatic?

[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/06/opinion/campaign-stops/the-men-feminists-left-behind.html
[2]: http://theslot.jezebel.com/older-women-share-what-voting-for-a-woman-president-in-1788497812



There has been a lot written about the reasons for Clinton losing and the what this means for women and politics in general. Some of these articles, therefore, may seem slightly ‘off-topic’ for this forum but I think that they highlight the intersectional nature of the loss and are worth bookmarking for future reading.

My beef over Hillary Clinton’s loss is with liberal feminists, young and old
A poignant piece (I think that’s a phrase I’ll be using a lot) about why women voted against Hillary but, finding a ray of hope amid the darkness, suggests ways that Hillary may help the next generation of women rise through the political ranks.

This Is How Much America Hates Women
Another post-mortem looking particularly at the misogyny involved in the election result.

Hillary Clinton Is the First Presidential Candidate to Say “I’m Sorry” in Concession Speech

“Or maybe Clinton apologized because this election was different from any other in recent memory. Among Clinton supporters, it felt like a referendum on women in leadership, open-armed pluralism, and common decency, not just a political disagreement. Her loss as a candidate represented the general failure of people who detested Donald Trump’s nativism and lifelong misogyny, among other things, to beat back the threat he poses to the constitution and American democracy.”

Hillary Clinton lost because of her gender, and it hurts like hell
This is a fantastic piece that really captures the despair and anger that many of us feel about the election result. As the subheading says,

this election result sends the message to little girls that even if you work really, really hard at something, your abuser will still end up winning.

Why It’s So Hard for a Woman to Become President of the United States
As is befitting for a forum dedicated to science, we have numbers! More specifically, an analysis of the countries that have and have not elected women to president/prime minister which goes some way to showing that a) it’s going to be bloody hard to get a female US President and b) many of the countries that have elected women are not doing so out of a desire for equality. In other words, it’s depressing on multiple levels.

One of Hillary Clinton’s top aides nailed exactly why she lost
More numbers. It boils down to people being so pissed off with things that they’re willing to burn it all down. It’s all very reminiscent of Brexit.

A quartet of articles examining the people who voted for Trump over Clinton,
The quiet racism behind the white female Trump voter
Why did women vote for Trump? Because misogyny is not a male-only attribute
Miss Ann’s Revenge
I’ve heard enough of the white male rage narrative
The first three look at why women voted for Trump while the last examines the forgiving narrative that has been developed around those who voted for him.

Gwen Ifill Exposed the Stupidity and Racism of Anti-P.C. Activism Long Before Trump
Gwen Ifill was a political journalist who confronted the racism and sexism of politics. She recently died and this is a fascinating article looking at her career.

Hillary Clinton’s Popular-Vote Victory Is Unprecedented—and Still Growing
In trying to end on a positive note I will note that Clinton won the popular vote by a huge margin. Not that it does anyone any good due to the stupidity of the electoral college. Oh well.



Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Speaks Out After Trump Supporter Called Her ‘Emotional’
There’s a lot to dislike in this piece. The fact the BBC did a bait and switch is the most notable one. The fact that the term ‘emotional’ was used as a slur is the other big problem. Chimamanda speaks so eloquently about why this term is not something to be ashamed of and how it was used simply to belittle and take control of the conversation.

Not sticking together: Why did women ignore the hate speech against Hillary Clinton?
This is an interesting piece. There’s no real ‘gotcha’ quote that I can use to draw you in but it examines the possibility that ‘gynophobia’ caused women to vote against Hillary and for Trump, despite their obvious and huge differential in abilities.

The colorblind sisterhood fantasy: Black women voted for white women — and white women voted for themselves
A fascinating piece looking at why Hillary did not enthuse black women.

Much of the white feminist struggle since has taken the same strategy with the same goal. For many women of color, white feminism feels less like a unified fight for the liberation of all women, and more like a campaign to ensure white women have the same status, rights and privileges as white men, and thus the corresponding power to oppress black and brown people. This election was a painful reminder, and statistical illustration, of that.

It wasn’t just “fake news” presenting a fake Hillary Clinton: She was held to impossible standards

I’d argue that the media’s portrayal of Clinton has less to do with her actions than with the persistent tainting of female witnesses based on gender bias. In short, my research shows that women are doubted. Women are seen as threatening stability when they show ambition and seek power. Their success threatens the association of masculine power with order.



How to Guide for Criticizing Conservative Women Without Being a Sexist Asshole
A very useful guide that does what it says in the title.

2016: a very bad year for women
The title says it all. A round-up of all the ways women have been screwed over this year.

A history of the American anti-feminism behind Clinton’s defeat
This ties in nicely with the previous piece.



I’ve just read this piece on Melania Trump, which I found very interesting. I’ve been a bit confused about the assumption that she is a victim that needs our sympathy or protection. And this article links it to ideas of white women needing saving and compares it to the attitude towards Michelle Obama:

The idea that black women are ceaselessly durable, able to withstand endless violations is a form of misogynoir (anti-black woman misogyny) that allows racists to project their hate onto her and white people, but in this case specifically, white women to ignore her need for protection.

And then on being a white woman:

The social construct of white womanhood is based on “purity, chastity and virtue” under the guise of “powerlessness” Mamta Accapadi explains in her essay When White Women Cry: How White Women’s Tears Oppress Women of Colour. These stereotypes, while not explicitly negative in the same way the tropes of black women as “angry”, “strong” or “sassy” they similarly dehumanise white women; denying them agency and responsibility for decisions they make freely.

It finishes with this:

Demanding we all #FREEMELANIA reminds black women there were no such hashtags for Michelle and compounds the centring of imaginary, conjured white fragility over palpable, genuine black vulnerability. Melania is not a child, stop creating a martyr of this grown-ass woman who fails to see the irony that if not for her whiteness and marriage to Sunburned Stalin, she would be the victim of and/or target for his anti-immigrant, anti-woman hatred.



[When People Talk About “Working-Class” Voters, They Only Mean White, U.S.-Born Men][1]
I love this piece, particularly this quote:

It is astonishingly narrow-minded to claim that “women’s marches, fighting rich asshole’s refugee ban and advocating for transgender bathroom rights” have “little to do with the nation’s working class.” There are transgender American women doing low-paid wage work in places where they’re scared to or legally prohibited from using the restroom. When they get UTIs from holding their urine until they can get home and their health insurance (if they have any) won’t cover antibiotics, is that a working-class issue or a transgender issue? When a working-class immigrant woman is abused by her husband and can’t afford to leave, but also can’t report him to the police for fear of deportation, is that a working-class issue or an immigrant-rights issue? When the mosque of a working-class Muslim man is burned down and he can’t afford a car to travel to another place of worship two counties away, do we chalk his troubles up to stagnating wages, Islamophobia, or both? When a black man gets passed over in favor of a less-qualified white one for one of the few factory jobs left in town, or gets fired because he’s gay (which is still legal in a majority of states), is he suffering from racism, homophobia, or globalization? Do working-class women with no access to affordable child care, contraception, or abortion coverage have woman problems or no-good-jobs problems?

As the saying goes, the personal is political, and that goes for everyone, not just white working-class men.
[1]: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2017/04/06/calls_for_democrats_to_focus_on_working_class_voters_mean_only_white_u_s.html



Abuse of women MPs is not just a scandal – it’s a threat to democracy



Hillary has a book out. It sounds like it’s going to be a very interesting book, dissecting the reasons why she lost the election. It’s going to piss a lot of people off as I don’t think she’s going to be holding back on how sexism played a major part in her loss. The backlash is starting and, completely unsurprisingly, a lot of that backlash is coming from fellow democrats who really think she should just go away and stop whining. This is a response I can’t imagine ever being given to a man and shows just how important her book is (hopefully) going to be as the only way to fix problems is to recognise them and the democrats seem just as unwilling as anyone else to address many of the key reasons for her loss.



Amnesty International have taken a look at the level of harassment female politicians receive and, well, it should be shocking but it’s only shocking if you haven’t paid attention.

Dianne Abbott is the main focus of the abuse and the abusers can’t decide if they hate her more for being a women or being black, and the article points out that intersectionality is an important part in how much abuse someone receives.

Any analysis of online abuse against women should not be limited to only applying a gender lens to the data. When you are a woman with multiple or intersecting identities, your experience of the world is not just limited to your gender. Your race or disability or sexual orientation, for example, can have just as much of an effect as your gender — if not more — on how you are treated both in the physical and digital world. In the case of online abuse, women of colour, religious or ethnic minority women, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LBTI) women, women with disabilities, or even non-binary individuals who don’t conform to traditional gender norms of male and female, will often experience abuse that targets these different identities.

The article is really detailed and a must-read for anyone interested in online harassment and its silencing effect on women.



Hillary’s book is now out. And it’s generated a lot of interest, largely negative from what I can see unfortunately. But if you look beyond the ‘she should just shut up’ articles, there’s been a good number of people who are asking why there has been such a visceral reaction to a key player in one of the most important elections in many people’s lifetimes writing a book about there experience.

No, Hillary Clinton, the First Woman to Win a Major-Party Presidential Nomination, Does Not Need to Shut Up About It

America’s vitriol towards Clinton reveals a nation mired in misogyny
Hadley Freeman on fine form - every paragraph deserves to be quoted so I’ll just recommend you go and read it.

The great Hillary Clinton paradox
This is an interesting piece that looks at whether sexism against Hillary was what lost her the election. The answer is more nuanced than many pieces on Clinton.

Journalist points out ridiculous hypocrisy of treatment of Sean Spicer and Hillary Clinton
Short but good piece highlighting the hypocrisy of the press.