Women in the Public Eye

I saw a screenshot of a Tweet today – it said “Don’t tell me ‘gender isn’t a factor’ when Hillary Clinton is more despised for being cheated on than Donald Trump is for cheating.”

Political ideologies and candidate preferences aside, this Tweet points out a repugnant truth – the moral, physical, and behavioral standards for female public figures are different than those of their male counterparts. While people poke fun at the Donald’s orangey skin and coiffed hair, they are incessantly critical of Clinton’s pantsuits (at one point alleging that she wears pants to hide blood clots), her demeanor (but, as she points out, one should not be excited to talk about ISIS), and her health. Instead of discussing her policy prerogatives, news stations focus on her age, her makeup, her seemingly tired face, and her husband’s extramarital affair.

Female politicians face this ridiculous scrutiny all the time. If their voice is too screechy they are labeled annoying, if it’s too deep they’re too manly. If they’re too pretty they can’t be smart, but if they’re not pretty enough that won’t do either. They have to be serious, but not too serious. They have to know the issues, but not come on too strong because it’s “off-putting.” Their ability to run a country or represent a district is questioned because they have a menstrual cycle. They are labeled “too emotional” simply because they were born women.

This absurd phenomenon is in no way limited to political figures – the Olympics saw reporters forgetting past successes of female athletes, attributing medal-winning successes to husbands, and general sexist commentary about appearance. Female celebrities are chastised for having multiple suitors over the years, while male celebrities are lauded as playboys, “successful with the ladies.” Women in the military experience obstacles to assimilation because they “distract men,” or “disrupt cohesion”.

With the number of women in journalism and media, it is incredible – as in worthy of awe – that the descriptions, analyses, and representations of women are this skewed. Women should undergo scrutiny based on merit, experience, and individual capability. They should not be held to a different set of rules or expectations, and they should never have to justify their right to a position because their gender is perceived as a handicap.