Monday, January 7, 2008

Sexism in Presidential Politics

Are men, specifically older, white men, more likely to vote for an African-American man over a white woman?

I never really thought about this question until recently. I guess being a successful woman in politics and having many successful female mentors in politics, I've never really noticed. Today, when people started saying that Hilary is weak because she teared up when speaking, I thought, "If any of the men were to do that, no one would think anything about it."

As I've been talking to more friends about who they will support if their nominee doesn't make it, the questions that seem to keep coming up are, "Who is more likable, Hilary or Barack?" And, "Who is more electable, Hilary or Barack?"

I was listening to an old professor speak about the Iowa caucuses and what he thought was going to happen in New Hampshire & beyond and he said something that I haven't been able to stop thinking about. He said that his brothers--well-educated and deeply conservative--would never vote for "an uppity woman." In fact, they would vote for an African-American man long before ever voting for a woman for President.

As a woman, this disturbs me greatly. But then, I can kinda understand it too. In small ways, I have felt the sexism in politics. I've chosen just to ignore it. I also have seen how women in politics are treated. It's usually unfair and I have to give kudos to those women for putting themselves out there.

This notion of sexism when deciding a Presidential candidate really makes sense, once you think about it. I mean, women didn't get the right to vote for 50 YEARS after African-American men did. Many men still view and treat their wives as "property." Many American religions are still very sexist and demeaning towards women. Women still do not make the same amount of money in the same kinds of jobs as men. Men are more likely than women to get job promotions and raises.

As a progressive and a mother, this saddens me. My daughter is adamantly supporting Hilary because, "We've never had a woman President before and it's about time we did!" In her world today (and the way I've raised her), women are just as important and equal as men. But what she doesn't see is the lingering sexism that still exists. It's shocking to me because even in Pakistan--PAKISTAN!--a woman was elected as the Prime Minister. Are we so far behind that we're behind Pakistan?!

Will men vote for an African-American man before they vote for a woman?

Would a woman make a better President?

We don't know. I'm not saying we should support Hilary cause she's a woman or Barack cause he's a black man. But I do think we need to really look past all that. I do think we have a real opportunity this year to do something great--elect a qualified and competent person to serve as our President.


Tyreseus said...

I hate how much time we spend on the woman/black man/hispanic man/Mormon/three-times-divorcee aspects of the candidates. I support Kucinich because he's the only candidate 100% in-line with my values and views on politics. My second choice is Obama because I really like what he has to say. I won't vote for Clinton because she's done nothing to convince me she isn't a puppet to corporate lobbyists and (essentially) a moderate/centrist.

Anne said...

Agreed. Clinton bought in. That is why people aren't voting for her. Even in her home state, NY, people don't like her. They just like her more than the Republicans she runs against. I don't know that I can vote for Hillary.