Women In Politics: Coverage Focuses More On Personality Traits, Less On Issues, Study Finds

Bush Center

The Huffington Post  |  By 

When female candidates are running for office, is the media coverage different?

Yes, according to new research led by Johanna Dunaway, an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Mass Communication of Louisiana State University.

The study, published in the most recent issue of Political Research Quarterly, found that the gender of the people running in an election influenced newspaper articles about the candidates. Articles about female candidates included more discussion of character traits than articles about male candidates.

The research team collected data from 9,725 newspaper articles covering 2006 and 2008 Senate and gubernatorial races across America. They then looked at the gender of the candidates written about in each article and whether the piece focused on the personality traits of those running or the political issues at hand.

When only male candidates were running, stories focused on character traits 6 percent of the time and political issues 55.5 percent of the time. When only female candidates were running, the stories focused on character traits 9.4 percent of the time and issues 51.7 percent of the time. And when a mix of male and female candidates were running, the articles focused on traits 10.8 percent of the time and the issues 53.1 percent of the time.

These results indicate that the media may focus more on the personality traits of female politicians than of male ones — and the presence of a female candidate in a political race brings personal characteristics to the forefront. The researchers concluded: “Races with a female candidate lead to news that is more focused on the personal traits and characteristics of the candidates, and this finding is especially stark for gubernatorial campaigns.”

It’s not only female politicians’ personalities that disproportionally interest the media. Coverage of female candidates’ appearances and clothing choices is widespread. There has been conflicting research on the extent to which this focus on appearance hurts women politicians more than men, but the issue is certainly not going away. In the past two months, New York Times and Washington Post articles have focused onfemale Senators’ purses and a White House Counsel’s shoe collection respectively.

Since articles about a male Senator’s tie collection or unfriendly demeanor in the name of equality seem unlikely, we’d settle for fair and accurate coverage of any politician — regardless of gender.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/08/women-in-politics-media-coverage_n_3561723.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

Women & Politics: Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Care About 2016 Speculation — She Just Whips Her Hair Back And Forth

Hillary Clinton Gives Speech On American Leadership On Her Last Day In Office

Hillary Clinton generally remains cool, calm and collected. Rumor has it that shenever even sweats. Even as will-she-or-won’t-she speculation over her potential 2016 presidential run rages, we think that Hillz is probably taking it all in stride.

A June 2012 photo of Hillary Clinton first made us think of a certain Willow Smith line. And this photo of Hillz taken during her last speech as secretary of state at the end of January does the same. We imagine that as countless media outlets pen stories about her, she’s probably just whipping her hair and getting on with things.

LOOK: Hillary Whips Her Hair (Again)

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/01/hillary-clinton-whips-her-hair-back-and-forth_n_2993045.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

Women & Politics: Hillary Clinton Finally Has Permission to Be a Bitch


Watching Hillary Clinton testify before Congress yesterday, in what will probably be her last big act as secretary of State, all I could think was, The woman is bulletproof. After more than two decades in the public eye, she comes across — at long last — as a powerful, authentic, and authoritative leader, not some geeky girl striving to find her place at the cool kids’ table. Plainspoken and emotional, but not defensive, Secretary of State Clinton talked about what she knew about the terrorist attacks on Benghazi, and when she knew it. And when Republican Senator Ron Johnson endeavored to pin the blame for insufficient or misleading public information about the attacks on her, she took him to school, clearly exasperated but never losing her cool. “Honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this,” she said, “but the fact is people were trying their best in real time to get the best information.” (The message between the lines: “When you are dealing with murderous terrorists in Libya, senator,then you can criticize.”)

What Hillary thinks and says finally matters more than how she looks — which is a good thing, because in that regard, she no longer gives much of a damn. From muumuus to ponytails, her body language and her public persona over the past year or so have reminded me of what a friend once said to me about menopause: “It gives me permission to be the bitch I always was.”

The aging process is, for most of us, a cause for dread. But in Hillary’s case it is liberating: As a post-menopausal woman, she no longer needs to concern herself with the armies of attackers who for years have ceaselessly found her insufficiently girlish, womanly, or sexually desirable. (“When she comes on television,” said Tucker Carlson, “I involuntarily cross my legs.”)  She tried to please on the femininity front, she failed, and now, what the hell, she can be the ballbuster and the battle axe that her critics always said she was: smarter, tougher, and wilier than everyone else. Come 2016, Joe Biden and any other Democrat with presidential dreams should be worried.

In the early days, some of her critics called her an arriviste, a wifey hanging on to her billion-watt husband’s coattails, but that critique doesn’t work anymore either. Clinton was a senator from New York for eight years and secretary of State — traveling to 112 different countries — for four. People continue to criticize her marriage for being sick and twisted on the one hand — a story of an ugly duckling smitten with a cad — or a contractual convenience on the other. In the end, neither case is borne out by evidence. The Clintons have been through it all: infidelity, humiliation, health crises, career conflicts. They’ve lived it in public, and still, when the secretary of State was discharged from the hospital, as she was earlier this month after treatment for a blood clot in her brain, she was flanked by her husband and daughter. What was striking about the tableau was how ordinary it seemed: The Clintons looked like nothing more or less than what they are, a family. Even gossipy tell-alls like Primary Colors and Game Change now work in her favor, for they unveil her worst characteristics before they could become damaging revelations in an election year. What can critics and opponents say about her now? That she’s extremely ambitious? Well, yes. That she’s a feminist? Obviously. That she’s fat, jowly, wrinkled? Okay, but has anyone taken a look at the Senate lately?

Her detractors said she wasn’t pretty enough. She wasn’t girlish enough. Compared to her husband, she was dorky, nerdy, a lesser light, a wide-hipped valedictorian in Coke-bottle glasses. She came off as superior, and for that some people will never forgive her. The teasing started before her husband’s first inauguration (to which she wore a spherical, royal-blue hat that some fashion writers compared to a UFO, and her face to a chipmunk’s) and never stopped. But look at her now. The images of Hillary being passed around in the past several months are a testament to what may be the most dramatic political turnaround in memory. Whether she’s scowling furiously at her BlackBerry, or taking a gleeful iPhone snap with Meryl Streep, or drinking beer from a bottle in Cartagena, Hillary Clinton comes across as comfortable in her skin, finally, and much more than smart. At last, she seems lovable.

Read More:  http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/01/hillary-finally-has-permission-to-be-a-bitch.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women


Women & Politics: The Politics of Style: Can Women Wear Stilettos and Be Taken Seriously Too?


Danielle Moodie-Mills

Writer, Polinista, and Equality Advocate

Remember the movie Working Girl with Melanie Griffith? She played the secretary who received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fill her bosses “stilettos” and become the power player at the office. Griffith’s character transformed from the big haired, long-nailed, tight-clothing-wearing secretary to CEO before our eyes with the right haircut and the quintessential power suit. Eighties movies like Working GirlBaby Boom and Mr. Mom paid homage to the struggle working women had with remaining feminine while being taken seriously and the difficulty of maintaining this delicate balance.

Unfortunately, the working woman vs. style theme didn’t stay in the ’80s with shoulder pads and perms — it’s made its way into 21st Century culture as well.

In Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon’s character changes her entire look to fit into her serious surroundings at Harvard Law School. She dons glasses, pulls her hair into a ponytail and wears muted colors. In the Devil Wear’s Prada, it was the reverse — Anne Hathaway’s character wasn’t taken seriously until she started taking her fashion (and herself) seriously as well. Her character said, “what difference does it make what I look like?” These days, a lot.

Movies aren’t the only place you will find the battle between smarts and style. When Hillary Rodham Clinton ran for President in 2008, there were countless articles about her pantsuits and hairstyle. Her pantsuits were no accident, of course; she wanted to move from the image of Hillary the FLOTUS to Hillary the President. Then you had Sarah Palin, whose six-figure makeover captured headlines as well as her flirtatious winks. With the help of a stylist she was transformed from small town governor to potential Vice President (although it would take more than a flat iron and some pumps to make that leap) and played up her feminine wiles in contrast to McCain’s uptight stodginess. And regardless of the outcome for President in 2008, the “Hockey Mom” technique worked and resonated with millions of women.

The notion that serious women can’t be stylish is a fallacy. So, why has society continued to perpetuate the lie? For decades, Western society has turned up its noses at countries that force women into ensembles that cover them from head to toe — but the same can also be said about the aforementioned power suit. Both were designed to suppress femininity and deny women their full expression of self.

Thankfully, there are two women we have to thank for Washington’s recent style evolution: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. These two women have single-handedly reversed the assumption that women can’t be taken seriously if they are chic. While both women have teamed up on the Joining Forcesinitiative which supports military families (an extremely serious endeavor), neither of them feel the need to suppress their style in order to convey their message.

Through the trials of our foremothers, who had to bear the reality of the Mad Men era and scrimp and scrape their way to the top, I can’t help but wonder — if we’re still having the “great suit and hair debate” in the 21st Century, have we really “come a long way, baby”?

Read More: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-moodiemills/michelle-obama-style_b_2536656.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women


Women & Politics: Park Geun-Hye, South Korea Presidential Candidate, Wins Election

Park Geun-hye


SEOUL, South Korea — Park Geun-hye’s election as South Korea’s first female president could mean a new drive to start talks with bitter rival North Korea, though it’s unclear how much further she will go than the hard-line incumbent, a member of her own conservative party.

After five years of high tension under unpopular President Lee Myung-bak, Park has vowed to pursue engagement with Pyongyang despite its continuing nuclear program and its widely condemned long-range rocket launch last week. The daughter of late South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee, she placed more conditions on resuming negotiations than the liberal opposition candidate she defeated Wednesday, Moon Jae-in.

On Thursday, Park mentioned the North Korean rocket launch during a nationally televised speech.

“The North’s long-range missile launch symbolically showed how grave our security reality is,” Park said following a visit to Seoul’s National Cemetery, where she paid silent tributes to late presidents, including her father.

North Korean state media have repeatedly questioned the sincerity of Park’s North Korea engagement policy, since she and Lee are from the same party.

Ties between the Koreas plummeted during Lee’s term. Many voters believe Lee’s policies drove North Korea to renew nuclear and missile tests and to launch two attacks in 2010 that killed 50 Koreans.

North Korea put its first satellite into space with last week’s rocket launch, but Park’s party, the U.S. and others said the mission was a cover for a test of banned ballistic missile technology. The launch raised North Korea as an issue in the closing days of campaigning, though many voters said they cared more about the economy.

Park (Bahk guhn-hae) has said she is open to dialogue with North Korea, but she has also called on Pyongyang to show progress in nuclear dismantlement. She has also raised the possibility of a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but only if it’s “an honest dialogue on issues of mutual concern.”

President Barack Obama offered congratulations to Park on Wednesday. In a statement, he said he looked forward to working with her on a wide range of issues, and he thanked Lee for strengthening U.S-South Korea relations.

Huge crowds lined up in frigid weather throughout the day to choose between Park and Moon, the son of North Korean refugees.

Turnout was higher than it was in either of the last two presidential elections, and some analysts thought that might lift Moon, who is more popular with younger voters. Despite moving to the center, however, Park was carried by her conservative base of mainly older voters.

They fondly remember Park Chung-hee, dictator for 18 years until his intelligence chief killed him during a drinking party in 1979.

Much of 60-year-old Park’s public persona is built on her close association with her father’s rule. When she was 22, her mother died in a botched attempt to assassinate her father, and she stood in as first lady for five years until her father’s death.

She has created an image as a selfless daughter of Korea, never married, and a female lawmaker in a male-dominated political world.

After Moon’s concession speech Wednesday night, Park said she would dedicate herself to uniting her people and improving their livelihoods.

“I really thank you. This election is the people’s victory,” Park told a crowd packing a Seoul plaza.

With about 98 percent of votes counted, Park had won 51.6 percent to Moon’s 47.9 percent, according to the state-run National Election Commission. Park is to take office in February when Lee ends his single five-year term.

No Korean woman is believed to have ruled since the ninth century. Park becomes the most powerful figure in a country where many women earn less than men and are trapped in low-paying jobs despite first-class educations.

Her father’s legacy is both an asset and a weak spot. Older South Koreans may revere his austere economic policies and tough line against North Korea, but he’s also remembered with loathing for his treatment of opponents, including claims of torture and summary executions.

Park’s win means that South Korean voters believe she would evoke her father’s strong charisma as president and settle the country’s economic and security woes, according to Chung Jin-young, a political scientist at Kyung Hee University in South Korea.

“Park is good-hearted, calm and trustworthy,” voter Lee Hye-Young said at a polling station at a Seoul elementary school. “Also, I think Park would handle North Korea better. Moon would want to make too many concessions to North Korea.”

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/19/park-geun-hye-south-korea-presidential-election_n_2329931.html

Women & Politics: Susan Rice Withdraws Name From Secretary Of State Consideration


Hey Everyone, I would to hear your thoughts regarding this story!!

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name from consideration for secretary of state, Brian Williams of NBC News reports.

“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama, obtained by NBC News. “That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country … Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.”

With Rice out of the running, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is widely believed to be the frontrunner to replace current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Joshua Hersh reported earlier this month that Democrats were nervous about the prospect of nominating Kerry:

The concerns have nothing to do with Kerry’s ability to handle the Foggy Bottom post. Nearly everyone agrees that he has the intellectual acumen and experience for the job.Instead, Democrats said they worry that Republicans may be using the secretary of state fight as a roundabout way to regain a Senate seat the GOP lost this fall, when Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was defeated by Elizabeth Warren. The anti-Rice gambit, some Democrats said, has the feel of a Republican long con.


Obama released the following statement on Rice’s withdrawal:

Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.

Rice’s potential nomination was marred by persistent Republican criticism of her response to the Sept. 11 anniversary attack on a U.S. compound Benghazi, Libya. She spoke on a number of morning shows in the wake of the attacks to defend the administration’s handling of the incident, which led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. During her appearances, she described the attack as the result of a spontaneous protest stemming from an anti-Islam video, an account that was later found to be incorrect.

GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) later emerged as her most vocal opponents, claiming that her mischaracterization of the attack was a sign that she was unfit to serve as secretary of state.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/13/susan-rice-withdraws_n_2295514.html

Women & Politics: Hillary Clinton: ‘I Really Don’t Believe’ I’ll Run For President Again


The Huffington Post  |  By 

Hillary Clinton is throwing more cold water on rumors of a 2016 presidential campaign, telling ABC’s Barbara Walters that she doesn’t “believe” she will run for the country’s top office again.

The interview, which airs Wednesday night, was part of “Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of the Year.” This is the third time Clinton has been honored in the annual special.

“I’ve said I really don’t believe that that’s something I will do again,” Clinton said of a presidential bid. “I am so grateful I had the experience of doing it before. I think there are lots of ways to serve, so I’ll continue to serve.”

Clinton, whose notable career has spanned the roles of first lady, senator from New York, 2008 presidential candidate and now secretary of state, said she wants to “see what else is out there.”

But if she does choose to run, as many suspect she will, she’s in a strong position. Nate Silver has called her Democrats’ best bet to “extend their winning streak to three or more terms in the White House,” citing her ability to emerge stronger after weathering criticism.

Clinton currently has a lifetime high favorability rating of 66 percent, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC poll. Two-thirds of Americans approve of her job performance in the Obama administration and 57 percent of respondents would support her candidacy for president.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/12/hillary-clinton-2016_n_2286173.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women


Women & Politics: Allen West Loss: Progressive Group Credits Outreach To Women Voters For GOP Defeat

Allen West

Sarah Bufkin

WASHINGTON — Since his defeat to a 29-year-old political newcomer, the media and political strategists have been speculating as to what happened to Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.). After all, he heavily outraised and outspent Rep.-elect Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.).

The answer, according to one progressive group: women.

Since West finally conceded two weeks ago, the media has speculated over what led to a loss that neither Democratic nor Republican strategists had predicted. For Becky Bond, the executive director of CREDO Mobile’s super PAC, the answer is women.

“A year ago, if I were to tell you that Allen West was going to raise $17 million for his reelection, but that I thought if we created a super PAC and spent a few hundred thousand dollars in that race that we could make the difference between his victory and his defeat, you would have thought I was insane,” said Bond on Friday during remarks at Rootscamp, a conference for progressive organizers in Washington, D.C.

Instead of diverting money to political ads, CREDO SuperPAC focused on its ground game. And after experimenting with its message, the group found that its most successful strategy involved targeting women both as volunteers and as a voting demographic.

“We did some message testing, and we found out that actually not only were there women in our office who the thing they really wanted to talk about was how these guys defunded Planned Parenthood and wanted to talk about different kinds of rape — they were enraged by that — but we also found that our messages about women were more likely to move voters and the voters who were more likely to move were women,” Bond said. “So we thought, ‘This is great, we are just going to talk to women.'”

West enraged progressives with his record on women’s issues during his two years in office. He sponsored a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. In turn, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund gave him a zero percent rating for opposing abortion access in the military, for supporting abstinence-only sex education programs abroad and more generally for “undermining the full range of women’s health services.” He also made a series of inflammatory statements about women, including during an April 2011 speech in which he claimed that women “have been neutering American men.”

Women in south Florida were paying attention. On April 2, when CREDO opened its campaign office in his district, 72 volunteers showed up to campaign against the Tea Party lawmaker.

“We would have women who were raped in college who wanted to go out and talk about the congressman who had voted against the reauthorization of the National Violence Against Women Act,” Bond said.

Some Democratic super PACs ran ads to highlight the congressman’s voting record, including one ad that proved controversial for portraying West as a boxer punching white women. But Bond felt that an old-school organizing campaign, when combined with modern data analysis and testing, would be more effective.

“Our scalable resource is people,” Bond said. “We know from the resources that have been disseminated over the last 10 years that we could do fewer, but higher-impact voter contacts by having volunteers talk to voters at the door and on the phone … And so we set out to build a campaign — an asymmetrical campaign, a David-and-Goliath campaign where we used our volunteers, having higher-quality contacts at the door, to move more votes than their hundreds of super PAC ads.”

CREDO SuperPAC’s focus on the ground game, which it employed to oppose Tea Party congressmen in 10 races, brought a much higher return on its investment than the ad-centric strategies of conservative super PACs like American Crossroads. Five of CREDO’s targets lost their reelection campaigns, including Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) and Rep. Chip Craavack (R-Minn.).

Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, on the other hand, spent over $100 million and only supported one successful candidate, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.). Two of the candidates that the organization opposed lost their contests.

Crossroads blamed its poor electoral performance on “very weak candidates.” Bond argued rather that Rove and others who focus on costly television ads are just pursuing an inefficient strategy.

“So why didn’t everyone do this?” Bond asked. “First of all, it’s really, really hard … And [second], the professional political class just doesn’t make any money off it.”

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/03/allen-west-loss-women_n_2232426.html?utm_hp_ref=womens-health

Women & Politics: Hillary Clinton Speculation: 8 Things People Have To Say About Hillz’ Next Steps

The Huffington Post  |  By 

What will Hillary Clinton do next? Multiple media outlets have raised this question since January when Clinton announced that she would step down as Secretary of State after President Obama’s first term came to a close.

Hillary, once a symbol of a bygone era of Clinton and Bush administrations, has experienced something of a Renaissance over the past year. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet (see: Texts From Hillary) and her record-breaking schedule as Secretary of State, she became hip again — and the member of Obama’s cabinet with the highest approval rating, leading to a whole lot of speculation over whether Hillary would be running for president again in 2016.

Although Clinton has repeatedly said that she won’t be gunning for the presidential office in four years — she’s stated that she plans to spend her upcoming free timewatching a lot more HGTV — that hasn’t stopped people from speculating — at length — about a Hillary 2016 ticket. Just look at a Reddit thread posted on November 11th, pegged to a quote from a New York Times piece on “Hillary’s Next Move.” The quote illcited comments like these:

Of course she’s going to run again. That’s why she’s stepping down as SecState — to gear up for another campaign.”
“Yup. I remember how tired she looked during the 2008 campaign. She’s undoubtedly going to use this time to rest and relax before the campaign starts to gear up in 2015.”


It seems like everyone is weighing in on what Hillary should do next, the media most of all. As it turns out, there are a whole lot of ways to express, “I have no idea what Hillary will do next but will talk about it anyway.”

Here are eight things people have to say about Hillary’s next steps.

The Week’s Marc Ambinder: “If I had to bet, I’d bet that she decides to run, if only because she will feel that destiny and circumstance have put her in the right place at the right time. She may feel that she owes it to young women and those who supported her to finish the marathon of American politics. But she might well decide that her legacy is secure, her popularity is intact, her financial prospects are bright, and her future lies with advocacy from the outside and grand-mothering.”

New York Times‘ Gail Collins: “If Hillary Clinton ran for president again, she would probably be the best-prepared candidate in American history: one who’s lived in the White House, served in the United States Senate, a woman who knows virtually every head of state in the world and also has a strong opinion about the merits of the Peruvian minister of development and social inclusion.”

Bill Clinton on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “I have no earthly idea what she’ll decide to do.”

New York Magazine‘s John Heilemann: “Speculation on that topic is rife within the Clinton diaspora; no one has a clue as to whether or not Hillary will run. But, equally, no one doubts that her husband dearly wants her to — mainly because, among members of the tribe, he can’t shut up about it.”

Elle‘s Rachel Combe: “Many of Hillary’s closest colleagues will admit off the record that they wish their beloved boss would run for president—whether or not it’s best for her personally. And they will allow that there’s always the possibility. Anything can happen in American politics in four years. It wouldn’t be wise to count Hillary Clinton out just yet.”

The Washington Post‘s Stephanie McCrummen: “The truth is, though, that no one is sure what Hillary Clinton will do, possibly not even Clinton herself.”

The Guardian‘s Suzanne Goldenberg: “Four years is an eternity in politics, however, and it is unclear what economic and political landscape will emerge when it is time for Clinton to make a final decision about another run for the White House. A new generation of female leaders is rising in the Senate.”

Jezebel’s Doug Barry: “Clinton has been annoyingly evasive about what her next (professional) step will be, which is fine because she’s probably tired and it’s nobody’s business anyway.”

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/hillary-clinton-speculation-2016_n_2117710.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

Women & Politics: Women Govern Differently Than Men — They’re Better

On a certain level, gender parity in government is an issue of democratic legitimacy: Women are a majority of the American electorate, and yet we have less female representation in government than most of the planet. (In a recent United Nations study of proportional gender representation in government, the U.S. ranked 78th, tied with Turkmenistan.) But according to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand — who has campaigned heavily for other female candidates in this election cycle and is likely to win reelection against a female opponent — the lack of skirts in the Senate is more than a symbolic concern. “My own experience in Congress is when women are on committees and at hearings, the nature of the discussion is different, and the outcomes are better — we reach better solutions, better decisions are made,” she said a year ago. But in this election, with only eighteen women competing for seats, there’s hardly going to be a longer line at the Senate gallery’s ladies room; the House raceis more optimistic, with 163 women on the ticket.

You might not know it from the reductive memes on your feminist Facebook friends’ newsfeeds, but political scientists have proved women’s extraordinary efficacy in federal and state legislatures. Across the board, findings show that the second sex rates first when it comes to effective governance. Women in office secure almost 10 percent more federal funding than their male colleagues and introduce about twice as many bills.

But do these wonder women really make “better decisions,” à la Gillibrand’s claim? The conventional wisdom is that women in Congress practice what’s known as “surrogate representation,” introducing so-called “women’s issues” bills regardless of home district relevance, feeling a responsibility to aid women in cities, say, even if they call farmland home. As Senator Barbara Boxer has said, “There are still so few women in Congress, you really do have to represent much more than your own state,” adding, “Women from all over the country really do follow what you do and rely on you to speak out for them.” This sentiment is how political scientists understand why women cultivate such diverse and substantial legislative portfolios, especially when compared to their male colleagues. It’s also why all women candidates, at least among Democrats, have the potential to be so-called “women’s candidates.” (There is, of course, a spectrum — I’m not overjoyed with Gillibrand’s own feminism myself, for example, but lately I’ll take what I can get.)

But defining what constitutes a “women’s issue” can be tricky. For a forthcoming paper on female lawmakers’ effectiveness, three political scientists crunched all 138,246 bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives over the past four decades. They found women introduced twice as many bills on civil rights and liberties bills; many more on “family” concerns; and significantly more on labor, immigration, education, and health. In other words, it’s about much more than who is paying for my birth control. They note that despite a century of discussion about health-care policy, it took a female speaker of the House to make universal health care happen. Or as Nancy Pelosi herself has said, “It’s personal for women … my sisters here in the Congress, this was a big issue for us.”

All this may seem like a function of liberalism, but it turns out that gender is a better predictor for these issues than partisanship. When a female senator replaces a male senator, there is a significant increase in support for women’s issues, or so political scientist Brian Frederick at Bridgewater State found when examining roll-call voting. “Women and men who represent the same states vote differently when it comes to women’s issues,” he says. “It’s not a function of representing more liberal constituencies.” Most women in office are Democrats, and as Frederick points out, when they show up for their first day of work on Congress, “active feminists are there to greet you.”

The bad news, though, is how rarely female initiatives turn into reality. Women’s-issues bills are the ones that see the highest gridlock rates. Overall, only 4 percent of bills become law (I, too, am singingSchoolhouse Rock! in my head, but bear with me), but a mere 2 percent of women’s bills ever make it through the process, like Lilly Ledbetter did. That’s only 1 in 50. “These are issues that the average member of Congress doesn’t see as crucial,” the University of Virginia’s Craig Volden, an author of the forthcoming paper, told me, underscoring a very real aspect of our democratic legitimacy problem.

But that’s where critical mass comes into play. In order to understand what proportion of women in office are needed to bust that gridlock, we have to look at comparative studies on other countries, since we’ve never come even halfway to achieving equal representation here. The literature tends to agree that when more than 20 percent of a legislature is female, sisters can do it for themselves. Without it, there’s simply no deference. “If we can only get the female numbers up to 25 percent, I’d be having a party in the streets,” quipped Colorado College’s Dana Wittmer, another author of the forthcoming female-effectiveness paper.

And yet women were still twice as likely as men to say they weren’t qualified to run and half as likely to be recruited by a party leader. Jennifer Lawless, who heads up American University’s Women and Politics Center — and ran for Senate herself in 2006 — surveyed 4,000 people in political pipeline professions to understand self-selection and support for potential candidates in 2001. She repeated the survey last year and found that there was no improvement — not by a percentage point — over the decade, a decade that saw Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy and Nancy Pelosi wield the speaker’s gavel. “The good news is it’s not about the voters or systemic bias against female candidates,” Lawless told me. In other words, the problem is not that women can’t get elected when they run, it’s that women aren’t running.

When you look at the rest of the world, this crisis of confidence is madness. Five of Latin America’s current heads are women. For two decades, Argentina has maintained a quota of 30 percent female representation. Granted, Latin America is hardly a hotbed of gyno-liberalism; most of these female leaders are anti-abortion, line-toting Catholics. So let’s consider Europe, where women’s organizationsmet in Strasbourg this week to organize toward 50-50 parity in the next election, as the continent’s one-third representation is considered an outrage. It’s a poignant irony that when the United States helps fledgling governments outline their democracies and develop their constitutions, we emphasize the importance of full female inclusion in government; there’s a reason that, despite a close adherence to Islamic sharia, Iraq ranks about 40 slots before us on the U.N. list.

Based on who is on the ticket this year, 2012 has no chance to be our next Year of the Woman. Gillibrand recently said, “If we had 50 percent of women in Congress, we would not be debating contraception. We would be debating the economy, small business, jobs, national security, everything but.” In this election, she might as well be talking about the existence of unicorns. If we could get even half that number, we might be twice as effectively governed. That’s not about girl power or some braless, bell-bottomed anachronism, that’s about progress for all of us.

Broadminded is a weekly column about gender and women’s issues, written in alternately by Alissa Quart and Lauren Sandler.

Read More: http://nymag.com/thecut/2012/11/women-govern-differently-than-men-better.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

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