The Representations of Female Politicians in the Media

by barackobama on April 15, 2015 - 5:02pm

Just a few days ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her 2016 presidential bid for the Democratic Party and this came as no surprise. However, what did come as a surprise was the overwhelming amount of negative attention Clinton received as a female politician running for office. Just days after her announcement, polls popped up online asking if people believe the United States is ready for a female president. Just hours after her announcement, journalists were writing articles about the Ms. Clinton’s age. And just seconds after her announcement, the hashtag “#WhyImNotVotingForHillary” was trending on Twitter across the country. On Twitter, a large majority of the reasons people were choosing not to vote for Ms. Clinton were because of her gender and/or were gender related. In all of these media outlets, Hillary Clinton’s sexuality is placed above any and all other cards she could be potentially bringing to the table.

            As shown in the film Miss Representation, the representations of female politicians in the media are most certainly not ethical. The film includes clips of news anchors interviewing and speaking of female politicians in ways that are rude and insulting to these women. First, a news anchor is shown speaking of Hillary Clinton, calling her, “so haggard and looking ninety-two years old” (Miss Representation). Second, another news anchor is shown interviewing governor of Alaska and then Vice President candidate Sarah Palin, asking, “breast implants – did you have them or not because that’s all over the Internet about you in mainstream media” (Miss Representation). The film also includes a panel of men speaking of Nancy Pelosi’s breasts and depicts several derogatory headlines published about female politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice (Miss Representation). The film points out the extent to which American media is derogatory and limiting towards the most powerful women in the country and how this is a direct reflection of how all women are viewed in the United States.

            The trending hashtag “#WhyImNotVotingForHillary” is also a fantastic example of the abuse of women in the media. Amongst many of the derogatory tweets about Hillary Clinton, one includes the hashtag with a picture of Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton’s mistress, and the text, “Monica 2016 – I got the “job” done when Hillary couldn’t” (Machine Gun Kelly). Another tweet includes the hashtag alongside the sentence, “I don't want feminist rallies outside of Starbucks” (Scourge). Both of these tweets are alluding to Clinton’s sexuality or the sexuality of her supporters instead of the ideas and solutions to America’s problems that she’s come up with in order to improve the country. While scrolling through this trending hashtag, it becomes quite obvious that a large majority of people tweeting #WhyImNotVotingForHillary are speaking in terms of her sexuality and have decided not to vote for Hillary Clinton because of reasons pertaining to her sexuality. 

            As we know, these derogatory and insulting representations of female politicians would not occur had these women been the opposite gender. Unfortunately, we still live in a world that places greater emphasis on a woman’s outward appearance than her thoughts and ideas. Although this may not be the case, as in many people, even a majority of people, may place a greater emphasis on a woman’s interior than exterior that is not how the media portrays women. And since the media and social media outlets are such integral parts of our lives, they manage to dictate how we view the world around us; therefore creating a world that places more emphasis on a woman’s looks than her thoughts. Although this is unfair, unethical and sexist towards all women it is especially abhorrent when speaking of some of the most powerful women in the entire world who have no intention whatsoever of using their sexuality for advancement in their careers. This form of portrayal demeans a woman’s integrity as a professional and is therefore extremely unethical.  

Works Cited

Machine Gun Kelly (captainkkelly). "#NotReadyForHillary #WhyImNotVotingForHillary." 15 April 2015, 7:25 a.m. Tweet.

Miss Representation. Dir. Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Vigirl Films, 2012. DVD.

Scourge, John (scxurge). "i don't want feminist rallies outside of starbucks ‪#WhyImNotVotingForHillary." 15 April 2015, 7:04 a.m. Tweet.


Your post made me happy because I think that you showed that women in politics are perceived differently than men. My opinion is that by looking at both Canadian and American history, a minority of women were involved in politics, and not so long ago, they did not even have the right to vote because they were seen as the men’s property. Today, even if women’s condition has improved, they are still perceived by the society differently than men. This is at least the impression of Pauline Marois, the first Prime Minister at the head of Quebec. I followed the 2012 and 2014 provincial elections carefully and in an interview, she was giving an example that I found thoughtful. Basically, she was saying that when a male politician looks tired, the population will have the tendency to think that it is because he is working hard, but when a woman does, they might ask themselves: “is she gonna be able to do the job?” Also, Pauline Marois was asked live on the TV show En mode Salvail in 2014 by animator Eric Salvail how many hairdressers she had. The same thing happened to Ms. Clinton when a reporter asked her who her favorite clothes designer was, and that she brilliantly and elegantly answered: “Would you ever ask a man that question?” Although Ms. Marois and Ms. Clinton decided to do not create a controversy, it shows, like in your article, a vision perpetuated in the medias regarding women and politic. In conclusion, your article was very interesting because it was different from what I am used to read; it reaffirms that women are as talented as men, and that they should be judged by the population by their ideas for the future of a country rather than by how they look.

To watch the interview with Hillary Clinton:

To watch the interview with Pauline Marois [French]:

There was obviously a great amount of coverage over her potentially being the first female President of the United-States. The coverage certainly went from good opinions to negative opinions with most of the negative coverage being focussed on disgusting and abhorrent stereotypes. But if you observe the bigger picture, the reason for Hillary Clinton’s failure in the General Election had nothing to do with negative coverage. This was, to quote Joe Biden, the first major election in which the Democratic Party did not cover the issues facing the American people. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee cheated the most popular candidate in the race who was Bernie Sanders, making it very difficult for Bernie supporters to follow the person that had cheated their preferred choice.

In a book published in the last few days by the democratic nominee herself, she blames Bernie Sanders for her loss, saying that his attacks made it easier for Trump to bring up the “Crooked Hillary” campaign he was on about since the very beginning. With all due respect, the reason for the failure of Hillary Clinton in the generals was that she failed to stand up for the growing progressive movement that has taken shape in America and the incommensurable amount of dissatisfaction and hate towards the Washington and Wall Street establishment. I strongly encourage you to look at a town hall organized by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes after the election. “In Trump Country” with Senator Bernie Sanders goes to show how the issues were really the matter in this last electoral contest. If you are interested, here are the links. You will find that many Trump voters would have not only voted for Sanders but agree with the Democratic-Socialist views he brings to the table in the Senate and on the national stage. - In Wisconsin - In West Virginia

Another very important issue I have to raise is one that many have been hitting back on recently concerning the “Bernie Bros”, or individuals who did not vote for Hillary but rather for Trump during the generals because of their hatred towards the establishment. In 2008, when Hillary Clinton lost the primaries to Barack Obama (cool username, by the way), nearly 20% of PUMA voters went from McCain. Puma means “Party Unity My Ass” and symbolizes the Hillary voters who did not vote for Obama. Only 15% of Bernie Voters switched to Trump during the generals.

So what is there to learn from all of this? What went wrong? To quote Hillary Clinton’s book title, “What Happened”? What there is here is a lesson that should be considered now by every single American who believes not only in the Democratic Party but in the U.S. as a whole. This is not an election that the Republicans won, this is an election that Democrats lost. If you look at the general election but also the small special elections held after the contest, Democrats have failed in their messaging and in their opinions. Corporatism and establishment politics do not work. They fail even against the most unstable and disgusting individuals, such as Donald Trump. The failure of Hillary is the failure of the decade and the failure of Hillary should stand as a lesson. Yes, sexism and disgusting anti-feminist and anti-women stereotypes played a role in the final result, but it was the lack of consistency and her segregation from the actual issues that turned the election in favor of Donald Trump.

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