The Bias that Won't Go Away

Sexism Alive and Kicking in 2010 Campaigns

Monday, November 01, 2010 - 03:43 PM

Reshma Saujani

The 2010 elections have demonstrated that sexism is alive and well in politics. Yesterday Carl Paladino shamelessly referred to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as Chuck Schumer's little girl. Twice.

"She does exactly what Schumer tells her to do, and I think if that's the kind of government you want, well, she'd probably be very good," Mr. Paladino said. "She follows him, whatever he wants her to do. She is his little girl."

When given an opportunity to apologize, Paladino proceeded to say, "She's offended? I don't care. Doesn't matter to me."

Well guess what, Carl: it matters to the women of New York. Referring to a sitting senator as a "little girl" is offensive and sexist. Unfortunately, there were plenty of examples of this sort of conduct throughout the 2010 elections on both sides of the aisle:

  • Jerry Brown's aide calling Meg Whitman a whore.
  • A right-wing blog's release of racy photos of Krystal Ball in a sexy Santa costume.
  • Gawker's posting from an anonymous man claiming to have had a sexual encounter with Christine O'Donnell.
  • The allegations against Nikki Haley that she had extra-marital affairs.
  • Sharon Angle called a "bitch" on air by a host of the View.
  • David Letterman's Top 10 Signs There's Trouble In The Democratic Party included Nancy Pelosi found in hotel room drunk and naked with Charlie Sheen.

Historically, we have more than enough examples of women facing sexism when they run for higher office (especially Hillary Clinton.) But it seems like the rhetoric and the personal attacks have skyrocketed in 2010. The silver lining we can hope for is that it puts gender back into our national conversation and forces the American public and the media to stand up and recognize that women unfairly face far more scrutiny for their personal conduct than men.

Women are going to continue to run for office, and I hope in 2012 we double the number of female candidates. I urge women across the nation not to be deterred to run for office by the way women have been treated in this cycle.

The United States ranks eighty-fifth in the world for the representation of women in government. If we are committed to closing the gender gap in this country we must get serious about recognizing how we treat women, regardless of party affiliation. The midterms have been a reminder to many of us of how far we have come, but also how far we have yet to go.

Reshma Saujani ran an unsuccessful campaign in the Democratic primary against Rep. Carolyn Maloney in New York's 14th district, which covers Manhattan and Western Queens. A community activist, attorney for hedge funds and a legal scholar, she is a graduate of the University of Illinois, received her Masters in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and her JD from Yale Law School.


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Comments [7]

Sure, there were some distasteful things said this election season. Nikki Haley wasn't the only candidate who fought allegations of infidelity, Carl Paladino pulled that card on his opponent Andrew Cuomo. Krystal Ball's santa suit paled in comparison to Rand Paul's days as a frat boy of sorts. When a man defames a man it's dirty politics, when a man defames a woman it's sex... dirty politics. I almost forgot, correlation is not causation.

To me the 2010 elections aren't so much a reminder that sexism is still prevalent so much as it is a reminder that feminism is still around, and still shooting itself in the foot.

Nov. 08 2010 09:15 PM
carlianschwartz from Paterson, New Jersey

Considering the sexism in the various campaigns, it would appear that the "c" word would fit MEN better!

Nov. 02 2010 10:16 AM
Melissa from Brooklyn

A lot of people feel that way about her though. It might have something to do with the fact that she completely changed her agenda once she got into office. Just to be fair, I consider Weiner to be Chuck Schumer's "little boy." I have no respect for either of em.

but I'm glad you've at least acknowledged that both sides have their sexism. I was starting to think sexism was ok as long as it comes from a Democrat.

So while we may disagree, I'll respect you.

Nov. 01 2010 09:44 PM
gaetano catelli from Taylor, MS (pop. almost 300)

re: "The United States ranks eighty-fifth in the world for the representation of women in government."

yes, but we rank first in the world for emasculated men, in or out of government. so, a more nuanced analysis is required to correctly interpret the statistic you cite. (see:

because of journalists run amok (see Janet Maslin on this subject), the constant need to raise money from self-serving sources, the loss of privacy, etc, running for political office in the US is among the most degrading, humiliating experiences that any human being can subject herself to.

hence, political offices are occupied mainly by self-pitying masochists. (i owe this insight to David Brooks, though he has not put it quite this starkly [but, almost so].)

unlike in many of the countries in which females have higher rates of office holding. ambitious women in America have far more opportunities to realze their full potential than to become a public pinata for the press, airwaves, and web.

Nov. 01 2010 05:53 PM
gaetano catelli from Taylor, MS (pop. almost 300)

i'm shocked, shocked, shocked.

Nov. 01 2010 05:24 PM

I have no sympathy for Ms. G. She is entitled and votes the wrong way continuously...she needs to go!

Nov. 01 2010 04:45 PM
Max from NJ

Cry me a river. Little Miss Gillibrand, the Senator who had her seat handed to her on a silver platter; the Senator who had all her tough primary challengers chased off by Schumer and the White House. Why? Because she is Schumer's little girl, his little lap dog. He tells her to dump all her old NRA positions, and she does so like a good little puppet.

We will continue to knock Gillibrand until she stands on her own two feet, something she has never done in her pathetic public career.

Nov. 01 2010 04:39 PM

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