Hillary Clinton has secured the Democratic party nomination for US Presidential elections, thereby becoming the first women candidate from the two major American parties to secure a ticket for Presidential elections. It might come as a surprise to few that in the 240 year old history of American politics, it never had a women vice-president, let alone a women president. Women in US obtained right to vote in 1920 after ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Some would question whether Hillary Clinton is the right candidate that represents “the modern American women”, who is making it big. It’s hard to imagine her rise in American politics if her husband wasn’t two time US President. Her major claim to fame was when her husband was embroiled in a sex scandal which received world-wide media attention. She tried securing a Presidential nomination in 2008 but Barack Obama out smarted her. Accordingly a survey published in local American media, majority of the Americans don’t trust her.
Is there a systemic discrimination against women in American politics?
US has often projected itself as the guardian of democracy and thought-leader of world politics. Several American presidents on their foreign trips have made speeches about women empowerment. Yet, when it comes to national politics of US, one can’t deny systemic discrimination of women. Women often have been projected as arm candy to powerful male politicians instead of women of substance. For several decades, American presidents and Presidential nominees have displayed their wives as mere trophies, who get to read well-written speeches and pose for cameras. Even the press-coverage has been more about their appearances i.e. clothes and make-up rather than their intellectual capabilities.
Only two times in the history of American politics that a women has been nominated as a candidate for Vice Presidency. Sarah Palin by the Republican party in 2008 and Geraldine Ferraro by the Democratic party in 1984. And in both the cases, their respective presidential candidates failed to win the Presidential elections.
The situation is even worse for women of colour in US. As per a report, only 6% of the women in US politics are of colour.
Why Women in US haven’t really fought hard against this discrimination?
Although, the numbers are so obvious, yet there is no known large scale movement or protest by either feminists or women in general against the gender discrimination in US politics. Compared to other democracies like Germany, United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, etc., where women have successfully become the head of states decades ago, women in US Politics are no where as ahead and empowered as others. Even in conservative countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, women have fought their way to the top.
So, what makes women in US conveniently ignore the discrimination they are facing in politics? The answer to this question lies in the constant brain-washing that women are subjected to in US.
- Firstly, American media has constantly projected the stories of women discrimination across the world, so that American women feel that they are much more empowered compared to other women in the world. Stories such as women not having rights to drive a car in Saudi Arabia, female genital mutilation in African countries and girls being subjected to torture and attack for attending schools in tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan have been continuously highlighted to create a sense of empowerment among American women. Psychologically, after hearing all such atrocities, American women feel privileged and satisfied to live in a society where no such discrimination happens.
- Secondly, American media has persistently downplayed the accomplishment of women across the world. The success stories such as Angela Merkel of Germany, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Erna Solberg of Norway, Saara Kuugongelwa of Namibia or the recently elected Theresa May of Britain doesn’t get air-time on American television. All these women are currently running the governments of their respective countries. If these women get coverage, they will serve as an inspiration to American women to have higher ambitions in life.
- Third, American media has systematically glorified sexuality, while absolutely downplaying the intellectualism and the talent of women. Photo-shopped images of scantily clad movie actresses, singers and sex-tapers attract the cover pages of popular magazines, forcing the young American women to undergo all sorts of insecurities about their body structure, whereas intellectual achievers such as Meg Whitman, President and CEO of HP, Indira Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo and many other accomplished American women do got get any coverage. Even when it comes to showcasing women of other countries, American media chooses to highlight women like Kate Middleton, who has no achievement to her name, except that she got married into a household that UK still continues to consider royalty.
What can be done?
Women Media Centre (WMC), a American organisation that aims to amplify women’s voices has published a well researched report on “Status of Women in US Media“. In 2015, the report published by WMC highlighted that most women in US media wrote about education, health and lifestyle when compared to writing about economics, politics, sports, tech and other key assignments. Time Magazine had earlier done an excellent review of WMC’s 2014 report. You can find it at: http://time.com/3908138/women-in-media-sad-truths-report/. There is an absolute need for women in US media to start writing aggressively about politics, economics and the things that matter to American citizens. This will change the perception of women in political arena and help women across the US have an active voice in US politics.
American Psychological Association has published numerous reports on sexualization of women in US media and the it’s impact on teenage American girls. As per research done by University of Buffalo, Rolling Stone magazine is 83% likely to have sexualized cover page of a women, whereas only 17% for men. Sexualization of women in media will stop only if American women recognise it as a problem. Currently, they are brain-washed to believe that, the nudity is form of liberation and freedom. The media shows the pictures of women in burqa from middle-eastern countries and convinces American women that if they don’t accept nudity, the other side of coin is wearing a burqa. Between burqa and sexual objectification, there exists a middle path for American women. American women should rise up to choose that path.