The mistreatment of women in politics has been and remains a major problem in our nation and culture, as several recent events have shown. Too often society brushes off comments or remarks about female candidates or politicians that we know are unnecessary and inappropriate — like focusing on a woman’s outfit or level of attractiveness instead of her thoughts and ideas. It’s time we take a stand as a culture against the mistreatment and stereotyping of women in our political system and mainstream media.
A major problem is women are largely underrepresented in government. While women are 51 percent of the U.S. population, they make up only 17 percent of Congress. Women have come a long way in politics and leadership positions, but there are still great strides to be made. The U.S. ranks 90th in the world for women in national legislatures behind countries like China and Iraq.
Currently, our nation has been discussing major issues that pertain to women without including enough women in the conversation. For example, the debate over the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act has shown little consideration for what women think about the matter. Some argue that requiring insurers to cover birth control is a violation of religious beliefs and freedoms, but the Congressional hearing in February on the matter involved no women. Instead, eight men discussed the issue. While this issue continues to unfold, women should have a bigger role in the conversation, as women are the ones who make the choice whether to take the birth control that would be covered under the ACA.
Another blow to women that went under the radar was earlier this month when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker revoked the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act. The law, passed in 2009, made it easier for those who had been discriminated against to file complaints or press charges.
The law was a reaction to a lawsuit by Lilly Ledbetter, who went through years of pay discrimination and sued her employer. After she won her case, the Supreme Court threw it out because she hadn’t filed quickly enough. Repealing this law is a denial of the gap between men’s and women’s pay that still persists. Taking away equal pay guarantees is a step backward for women’s rights in the workplace, and people should be appalled by Walker’s decision to do so.
Mistreatment and stereotyping of women is present throughout mainstream media today, especially in political coverage. For example, a New York Magazine headline during the 2008 presidential campaign referred to Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton as, “The Bitch and The Ditz.” This type of labeling and judging of two female politicians is degrading. When the mainstream media focuses on hair and make-up instead of the ideas of women, it takes away the seriousness and importance of those women’s intentions. Mainstream media constantly focuses on the superficial aspects of women, and it’s time our nation breaks that ingrained and offensive habit.
We should take women in leadership positions seriously instead of viewing them and talking about them as objects. In our day and age, it’s about time we take a step forward toward the equal treatment of women by ending stereotypes and the objectification of women in political and media discourse. We can start this progressive shift by listening to the thoughts and opinions of women when it comes to political issues