The lifelong gap: women in politics

According to Consulting and Workshops on Multicultural Education, globally women partake in about 24% in national parliaments. I believe this is because women are discouraged from being involved in politics from childhood.

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The lifelong gap: women in politics

by Lilly Frisch, Writer

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     On the first day in my fifth grade social studies class I looked up at the poster wrapped around the room with an array of presidential faces. My eyes glazed over all the different John-s and James-es with pasty skin, light hair and wrinkles. None of the 44  pictures had someone that closely resembled me. No long hair, dresses or skirts. No women. Ever since then I have been watching closely for any female politician that comes onto any form of media, hoping that one day a young girl can look up at a presidential poster and see someone that looks like her. 

     Our society today is uncomfortable with women partaking in leadership positions. This fundamental aspect of our society impacts women’s involvement in politics. Women have a lower presence in politics than men. I believe this is because they are discouraged at a young age, face harassment and gender bias during their campaigns and are undermined and disrespected in office. 

      Watching the Iowa Democratic Debate on Jan. 14 I was shocked by a statement made by presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. “I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women, Amy and me,” Warren said. Warren has not been shy about speaking against the unequal ratio of men and women in politics. Alongside Warren were three men and one other woman. It’s hard not to notice the uneven balance in the gender of the political candidates. Women are not to blame for the uneven ratio of men to women partaking in current politics. 

     The discouragement of girls in politics, as well as leadership positions, starts in the daily lives of young girls. According to Amanda Chapman, a researcher in women’s studies,  in the classroom there is often a clear divide of what is expected of girls and boys. Girls are praised for being neat, quiet and calm, whereas boys are encouraged to think independently, be active and to not fear voicing their opinions. 

     The research, Gender Bias in Education, was conducted by Sadkers, a female professor, that analyzed teaching treatment of different students between girls and boys.  “As a teacher, I was struck by the Sadkers’ research on classroom exchanges and was forced to acknowledge the disproportionate amount of time and energy, as well as the different sorts of attention, I give to male students,” an unnamed teacher in the study said. 

This divide in the classroom teaches girls that their success is not a priority. This discourages them from voicing their opinions which is essential to being successful in politics.

     Society is also involved in discouraging young girls because of the treatment of young girls who take on leadership. A common image that is attached to these young girls is that of being “bossy.” Starting from a young age, girls shrink away from leadership because of the judgment they receive from their peers.

     Women are discouraged to take part in politics because of harassment and gender bias that takes place during a woman’s campaign. According to Politico, in 2017 81.8% percent of female politicians across the globe were harassed in some form or another. This shows that there are dangers of running for office. Women can be harassed with sexist remarks, comments about their appearance and can even be victims of violent threats such as abduction or murder.  When scandals are uncovered during campaigns, women are much more likely to suffer from a loss of voters and a damaged reputation. Simply because of a woman’s gender she is penalized harsher for her actions.

     This unequal treatment of men and women continues when a woman reaches political office. News outlets across the world have been called out for their slanted articles and news reports about women working in political offices. These actions would decrease any woman’s chances of being effective in office. When women are not seen as leaders they do not advance in government and politics. Women are at a disadvantage in political environments because their ideas are not given equal attention. When female politicians and their ideas are not respected, they cannot make change and use their position in office as they are supposed to. 

     Our country is lacking much-needed diversity in our government. To increase the presence of women in politics we must take it upon ourselves to change the societal norms that hold women back from gaining success in politics.