Politics are complicated, messy and raise a lot of emotion both among the public and the politicians themselves. Politicians are held to a certain standard of being a leader who is calm yet brave, careful and certain, caring but not weak. When a politician loses their cool or breaks the mold and ideal, the eye of the public focuses in to pick apart the psychology behind it. When a woman politician holds a strong opinion she is called a bitch, we’ve all heard that before. If a woman politician tears up talking about an issue that is important to her, the media slams her for being too emotional to lead the county or the state. Currently in America the political arena is a man’s world and while the criticism falls hard on all politicians, most of the scrutiny of emotional reactions is focused on women.
Hilary Clinton has been criticized in the past by the media for displaying emotion or shedding tears while addressing the public. People are quick to judge the emotions of women as a sign of weakness, as an indicator that they cannot be trusted in a position of power. Strange isn’t it? Feeling is viewed as an indicator of weakness, this natural physical phenomenon of tears generated by the body which is a sign of deep care and investment in an issue means that a woman is not fit to lead apparently. When men cry in politics the media congratulates them for their courage to feel emotion claiming that these men are brave.
If a female politician takes command it’s viewed as aggression or when she strongly states her belief it is seen as “bitchy”. When a male politician takes command he is praised as a strong leader. Now, it is not the fault of the male politicians or the female politicians for how they are viewed by the public necessarily. It is the role of media, the gatekeepers of society who have the control to change this. What is perhaps more horrifying is the fact that female news anchors also participate in the belittlement of female politicians.
If women are to continue to grow in numbers in the political arena then the key isn’t to stop showing emotion or to “back off” to appear seemingly “cool”. No, they key is to embrace the power to feel, to be human, to be impassioned and to understand that being a woman and demonstrating signs of emotion isn’t a sign of weakness. Both male and female politicians must not conform to media standards. Now I do not contend to say that fits of rage or uncontrollable sobbing is appropriate when addressing the public for either sex. However, standing up for your beliefs, being passionate about an issue and showing strength in your desire to change the world is powerful, not weak.
What irritates me the most about media coverage discrepancies between female and male politicians is not the coverage on emotions but the coverage on fashion. Nothing says, “America does not respect the opinions of women” quite like dedicating 10 minutes to discussing Hilary Clinton’s latest suit instead of her latest policy push. Well, media may be gatekeepers but it’s private citizens with control over the media, which makes this a difficult issue to change. Perhaps political grooming for women should include lessons on dealing with sexist press, and how to shut down frivolous inquiries and redirect attention to real issues.