Sexism Pervades in the 2020 Election

Sexist tropes are still alive and well in our political system.

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From the outside it may look as if sexism has been vanquished in the American political system. With a record number of women being elected to Congress and less overt sexism by the media, it can be easy to overlook what is still very present in our political world.

Over the past few months, a flurry of Democratic candidates have entered the presidential field, including a historic amount of women. However, this increased number of female candidates has only served to further exemplify the sexist double standards by which male and female candidates are judged.

One example of this was last weekend, when Beto O’Rourke made a joke about how his wife raises their three children, “sometimes with his help”. Now, let’s pretend for a minute that this comment was made by a female candidate. She would be criticized immediately for being a horrible, heartless person who prioritizes power above all else.

This is clearly the epitome of a sexist double standard for women in politics – as well as in life in general. Women cannot just be strong and smart and driven, they must also be maternal, warm and perceived as a “good mother”. Almost all of the female presidential candidates make a big deal about their children, featuring them prominently and trying to seem sweet and motherly while also trying to convince people that they can be the leader of the free world.

Another case of sexism in the presidential race happened on Friday after Bernie Sanders reportedly hit his head in the shower and cut his head requiring stitches. Of course, this barely made a blip in the news cycle, and nobody used it to try to malign Sanders or claim that he is unfit for office because of his health. This is in direct contradiction to what happened to Hillary Clinton when she contracted pneumonia during the 2016 campaign. After her illness, there were endless news stories speculating about her health and wondering if she was fit for office. This again is an example of the sexist double standard that plagues the system.

Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail following his injury.

Sexism is also shown in the way that female candidates are judged. People are always talking about women’s clothes, smiles, and looks. Do people tell male candidates to smile? No. Do they critique men’s outfits? No. People care only about these sexist and trivial matters in regards to women. While some may not think that this is important, each question about a woman’s looks cheapens the level of political discourse in this country.  

A prime example of sexism directed towards female politicians worldwide.

Now I will say that I do not believe that a “sexist double standard” is always the correct term to use. One of the presidential candidates is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Klobuchar has come under fire for allegedly being verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive towards her staff members. Some people have said that Klobuchar is being judged by a sexist double standard and that, if she were a man, she would be viewed as strong and commanding, not crazed and bossy. I do not believe that sexism claims are a valid excuse in this situation. For a person to be abusive in any way towards others is not acceptable and cannot be excused.

Senator Amy Klobuchar

Overall, it is clear that sexism is alive and well in our political system. It is up to all of us, regardless of party or candidate preference, to recognize that this exists in our political system and to seek to avoid sexist tropes in all forms.