The Electability of Women is a Stupid Question, so Stop Asking It
The 2020 election for a new president is thoroughly underway, and this nation of ours has probably never had this varied a spectrum of candidates. Black, female candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, joins New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker in a group race containing savvy female contender Sen. Susan Warren, as well as outspoken Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. The Democratic side also has Asian-American businessman Andrew Yang pushing for universal income in the face of job-killing automation, and Latino candidate Julian Castro promising universal pre-K and a revamp of the nation’s immigration policy. Then there’s the nation’s first openly gay candidate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is pressing for a host of progressive issues, including the elimination of the hotly undemocratic electoral college—which was created solely to give undue voting power to U.S. slave states, according to some sources.
With the rainbow of variety lining up against President Trump, it appears to be a good time to be a woman candidate—or not. Multiple studies and polls suggest that voter prejudice is still giving female politicians a headache, even in 2019, after the U.S. House was blessed with more female representatives than it has ever had.
Zakiya Summers currently serves as an election commissioner for Hinds County, Mississippi, but is running for Mississippi House District 68. Summers claims that while serving on the commission, she encountered the kinds of problems that appear to be unique to women. They have everything to do with perception.
“(Black women) often get this label that we’re ‘aggressive’, as opposed to being ‘assertive,’” Summers told The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects.
“When I was holding my colleagues (on the election commission) accountable, I was often labeled (combative) by women—by Black women, no less—serving on the very same board with me. You want to show leadership, but when you add the label of being a woman and then being a Black woman, it’s almost as if you’ve put yourself two steps back before you’ve even whispered a word. And then when you don’t whisper, because that’s not in your DNA, … and you’re unapologetic about that, it can be deemed as something negative, when it really shouldn’t be.”
According to Summers (and many polls), when a man barks orders, he’s simply doing his job. When a woman does the exact same thing, she risks coming off as bossy or ambitious. It’s the kind of situation that then-candidate Trump was able to exploit in the run-up to the 2016 election. Words like “mean” and “nasty” carry extra weight when wielded against women, and Trump knew enough to swing them at Hillary Clinton. Trump described Clinton as “nasty” during the campaign and didn’t hesitate to use the word again more recently on Sen. Kamala Harris. He made a reference to Harris’ nasty wit back in April and again called her “a bit nasty” after Harris grilled U.S. Attorney General William Barr for being a presidential bootlick. Harris blew past Trump’s childish name-calling, saying the president was only trying to push an
agenda to “obstruct” an ongoing investigation against him over allegations of … uh …well … obstruction, actually. (Heh, how ironic.) Of course, the media is doing nothing to help things, either unintentionally or on purpose, according to some studies. Reporters appear to treat women on the 2020 campaign trail more negatively than their male competition.
“Female candidates running for president are consistently being described in the media more negatively than their male counterparts. That’s what we’ve concluded after an analysis of 130 articles from mainstream news outlets,” stated Alex Frandsen, a journalism major and sociology minor at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.
“It’s a disconcerting trend in the 2020 election coverage.”
The bias all around plays into the argument against female electability, actually, with some editorials mulling whether or not betting on a woman candidate in the primary sabotages the November election for Democrats. After all, you don’t want to give a racist ignoramus every kind of an advantage leading into November.
Summers warned against voting for any candidate based on their electability, however. Voting for the “electable” candidate rarely won the day for Democrats in the past. Does anybody remember John Kerry or Walter Mondale? They were the “electable” candidates.
In any case, Summers said gender-related electability is an even stupider idea because the nation has so thoroughly changed its face over the last few decades.
“Long gone are the days where people only go for that cookie-cutter elected official who is White and male. There are people all across this country who are turning the tide,” Summers said.
“We saw that during the mid-terms, and women in Congress right now are showing out. AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY), and (U.S. Rep.) Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Kamala Harris—they are smart and capable, and they bring a new perspective to the game.”
Summers added that although there will always be a certain margin of folks “who have not stepped into the 20th century,” many of those voters, she said, won’t be voting against the misogynist creep squatting in the White House, no matter what candidate wins the Democratic ticket—so there’s no sense in pandering to them by voting on the basis of “electability.”
Follow your heart at the poll booth.