Five myths about female candidates

Rebecca Traister breaks it down at the Washington Post:

1. There are more Republican women than Democratic women running in 2010.

Yes, a record number of Republican women filed to run for Congress in the primaries, but those numbers were record-breaking only by Republican standards. The GOP has never put forth as many female candidates as the Democratic Party, which holds 69 of the 90 congressional seats occupied by women, and which elected 25 of the 38 women to serve as senators to date. Despite the Republican uptick, more Democratic than Republican women filed to run for Congress again this year.

2. This year’s female candidates are extra-stupid and extra-extremist.

There are endless clips of female office-seekers saying silly and hateful things; see, for example, the constant reruns of Christine O’Donnell betraying her ignorance of the First Amendment, or of Sharron Angle telling Latino students that they look “a little more Asian to me.”

But political fatuousness and fear-mongering are neither unprecedented nor particularly female habits. In politics, appalling people have often said appalling things; very few of those people, historically speaking, have been women.

3. Female voters love female candidates.

No, most female voters love Democratic candidates because they agree with them on issues. Or at least they have for the past 30 years. A recent New York Times-CBS News poll suggests that this year, economic anxiety may be pushing female voters to favor Republicans for the first time since pollsters started tracking these numbers in 1982, but don’t confuse that with a knee-jerk enthusiasm for mama grizzlies.

Read her last two myths after the jump.

4. Candidates like O’Donnell, Angle and Bachmann are bad for women.

Even if you don’t like them, it’s not fair to suggest that their presence on the ticket represents a step backward for women. In the pursuit of true gender equity, people across the political spectrum need not only women to vote for, but women to vote against. The notion that female candidates should clear a higher bar for civility, intellect or compassion than the one set for men is a damaging fallacy that impeded Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president in 2008, when many liberal women turned up their noses at what they saw as her compromised politics, apparently hoping that the first female president would be made of finer stuff than her male counterparts.

5. 2010 is the year of the woman.

Pundits keep comparing 2010 to 1992, when a then-unprecedented five women were elected to the Senate. While 2010 has featured a surprise resurgence of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas controversy, which inspired so many women to charge the Capitol 18 years ago, 2010 will not include comparable electoral gains for women. To the contrary, we will probably see the first decline in the number of women in Congress since the 1970s.

Read the article for her full explanation of each myth and truth.

I particularly like this idea she puts forth: “In the pursuit of true gender equity, people across the political spectrum need not only women to vote for, but women to vote against.” Not because I want female political candidates to oppose, but because it shows that gender is just one factor in a candidate’s platform, just like their stances on certain issues, or their age. Like Ann said during the 2008 election, a woman candidate is not necessarily a women’s candidate.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted November 1, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Regarding having both women to vote against and vote for, it’s the same basic fallacy that drives tokenism. Any minority in a position of authority is expected to over-perform or to be everything to everyone, both of them impossible tasks.

  2. Posted November 1, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    As a Minnesotan who has been enduring Bachmann’s crap for years (ask about the time she tried to discipline my son during a pro-choice action at our state capitol), it’s taking a lot for me to suck it up and agree with #4. Equality means women can be just as distasteful to me politically as any man!

  3. Posted November 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    And there are a lot of female candidates running on the Green Party ticket–at least in New York State!

  4. Posted November 1, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised Feministing hasn’t made a post about Brazil’s first female president, who was elected yesterday.

    I do agree with fellow user ShannonDrury, a female politician can be as good or bad as any male politician. That my country’s president is a woman didn’t mean that I supported every one of her politics.

    • Posted November 1, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Refresh your page, we just posted about her.

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