Gender in Politics

Courtesy of Creative Commons User Marc Nozell

MILLIONS OF AMERICANS tuned into the first debate between what seems to be the two most viable contenders for the next Presidency: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. What seems to be a key point of discussion is not Donald Trump’s vehement denial of the comments he did made, but rather how many times his insistence of superiority cut into whatever points Secretary Clinton had been trying to make — if she was allowed to make a full statement at all. According to Emily Crockett and Sarah Frostenson at Vox, Secretary Clinton was interrupted a total of 70 times, while Donald Trump had only been cut off 47 times. This is a physical manifestation of the heavily misogynistic societal atmosphere that still exists within the GOP as well as in the entire realm of American politics.

Many studies have been done on how often women are interrupted as being opposed to men, but they are also, to an extent, very dated. Technology mogul and linguist Kieran Snyder devised an experiment in July 2014 within her own company meetings and recorded some surprising data: Men do interrupt women more often and are almost three times as likely to do so than they are to be interrupted by women. However,  women most frequently interrupt other women and almost never interrupt men. While this is a technological firm and not specifically a political setting it still represents a pressing question: does gender affect how we view a politician? Common viewpoints on Secretary Clinton’s presidency (or any female presidency) include, but are not limited to:

“What if she’s on her period? The Big Red Button is right there! We’ll all be dead!”

“All women care about is spending money, we’ll be broke in a week.”

“Women are too fragile to be president, they’re going to need a man’s help.”

But what is even more hurtful than the insinuation that women are fragile, helpless, impulsively stupid creatures is when this attitude comes from other women. When these stereotypes are perpetuated amongst women, whether it be interrupting each other more than men or whispering between themselves when a woman is a single mother or has tattoos and piercings, it hurts people of all gender identities; it allows someone to be dismissed because of the prejudices we perpetuate based on someone’s gender. It prevents Secretary Clinton from sharing even one little piece of her presidential platform. It allows male candidates like Trump and other politicians to laugh in the face of every woman in their profession and brush them off as if they don’t matter. That is what these “interruptions” really mean — they are meant to tell women that their words do not matter in a political space. But they do, they matter just as much as the next person regardless of gender identity. They matter because women are people with sentience and agency just the same as the next person.

Your gender identity or expression should not be a make-or-break factor in whether or not your opinion matters in politics.

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