Sexism disadvantages female candidates on campaign trail

Derek Poludniak

Carly Fiorina is right — sort of. In a recent interview she said conservative women face a double standard when it comes to the liberal media. Some pundits agree that Fiorina has faced far more sexist attacks this presidential cycle than her Democratic counterpart, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But in the end, it doesn’t matter if a woman is liberal or conservative — she will still face sexism on the campaign trail.

Fiorina’s looks are often headlines. She has faced multiple attacks for her face since launching her campaign in May. Businessman Donald Trump infamously asked why anybody would vote for Fiorina based on her looks. And just last week, the co-hosts of The View remarked that Fiorina looked demented during a debate, at one point joking that her face should be a Halloween mask.

And when it’s not her face, it’s her shoes. At the CNN debate in September, Fiorina “proved herself” worthy of being a woman among men not for her passionate responses, but for standing in her 3 ½ inch blue Manolo heels for three hours. Meanwhile Trump, in his flat dress shoes, complained that three hours for a debate was too long.

“We’re still absolutely focused on [women’s] physical appearance in a way that male candidates are not,” American studies professor Janet Davis said.

Meanwhile on the other side of the aisle, Clinton faces similar sexist remarks for her voice. Earlier this year, Trump called Clinton “shrill.” And during a heated debate on gun control, Sen. Bernie Sanders implied that Clinton’s passionate tone was shouting when he argued that “all the shouting in the world” won’t fix gun violence. Clinton shot back at Sanders, who is known for his shouting demeanor, by noting that “sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting.”

“Powerful women who run for office are called the b-word,” Professor Davis noted. “If they’re assertive or brusque or in anyway unlikable, they’re a bitch. Men can be just as brusque and just as assertive and they’re considered forceful.”

Today, sexism isn’t holding women back from running for office. Both Fiorina and Clinton have been putting cracks in the glass ceiling for years, and maybe this is the year one of them will shatter it. But as long as sexism on the campaign trail prevails, women will have to work harder to make voters focus on their issues and not their looks. And when a voter only knows Fiorina by “that face” or Clinton by her “shrill” tone, shattering the glass ceiling looks less likely each and every presidential election.

Poludniak is an international relations and global studies sophomore from San Antonio. Follow Poludniak on Twitter @DerekPoludniak.