The New York Times reported on Thursday that Priorities, one of the largest super PACs in the nation, is officially moving to back Hillary Clinton as its candidate for the 2016 presidential election. This is welcome news, because America needs a female president.
Women are severely underrepresented in American policymaking and media, and electing the first female president will go a long way toward correcting the imbalance.
A fact sheet from Rutgers’ University’s Center for American Women and Politics shows that as of 2013, “Women currently hold 99, or 18.5 percent, of the 535 seats in the United States Congress — 20, or 20 percent, of the 100 seats in the Senate and 79, or 18.2 percent, of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.”
That might not seem terrible, but when you consider the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2012 that 50.8 percent of the U.S. population is female, it becomes quite obvious that Congress is far from what your political science teacher would call a “descriptive representation.” Descriptive representation is the idea that a legislative body should represent its constituency in a 1:1 ratio so, for instance, with 50.8 percent of the U.S. population being female, 50 percent of Congress should be female as well.
We have an overwhelmingly male legislative body drafting laws that exclusively regulate women — laws about rape, laws about abortion, laws about the age of consent, and more. Yet the very people these laws affect are unable to bring any substantial powers to bear on their creation.
Then, of course, we have the media. For that, I simply defer you to the excellent and anger-inspiring YouTube video “How the Media Failed Women in 2013.” It’s only three minutes long, and it’s incredibly eye-opening.
As that video illustrates, there are great things happening for women all the time. Every female representative elected to our government and every actress who portrays a strong female lead is a great step forward.
But women are underrepresented and often times brutally mistreated in the media. Even if we set aside the rap videos, reality TV shows and magazine ads, we can still see it in the dialogue of our news outlets. We can pull a few examples from the above video:
“Carol, you’re beautiful but you have to be honest as well,” said Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indiana, to CNN’s Carol Costello.
“That’s the problem, women haven’t done that much,” Andy Levy said on the Fox News show “Red Eye.”
“Excuse me, let me just finish what I was saying, if I may, oh dominant one,” said Lou Dobbs to Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
“Know your role and shut your mouth,” said Bill Cunningham to a female panelist on his Fox News show “The Bill Cunningham Show.”
I could go on, but I’ve made my point.
This openly sexist and vile rhetoric persists everywhere across our media culture. It’s not going to change overnight. These beliefs are ingrained in our society, and it will take decades more of progress (if we’re lucky) to fully remove them.
Electing a female president would certainly help. Having a female president would give young women everywhere a prominent and powerful role model. It would put a very powerful woman in a position to influence the crafting of laws pertaining to women.
Most importantly, a female presidency could see the beginning of a generation that sees women in positions of strength and power as a normal thing. Young men, particularly school-aged boys, could grow up in a world where they are not indoctrinated to believe that positions of strength and power are reserved for white, protestant males. Unlike Todd Rokita, Andy Levy and Lou Dobbs, they won’t fear women in power. They will respect them.
And that is something we desperately need.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @sirshackofford