“Did you see how she styled her hair at that press conference?” “Will her gender play a role in her decisionmaking?” “Is she too ‘feisty?'”
Though the media at large may not intend it, sexism seeps into the national conversation through seemingly innocuous comments.
A cursory glance at the statements above may not bring up red flags for some, but polls consistently show that women lose ground when topics relating to their appearance and gender are brought to the fore. Instead of focusing on what positions the candidates stand for, discussions quickly hone in on what distinguishes female candidates as a woman instead of as a candidate.
As Hillary Clinton begins her second run for Democrats’ primary nomination and, ultimately, the presidency, she is already facing the issue head-on. In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer last week, she stated about being judged, “It is just never ending. You get a little worried about, okay, people over on this side are loving what I’m wearing, looking like, saying. People over on this side aren’t...I’m done with that. I’m just done.”
Anti-sexism advocacy groups such as The Women's Media Center have put forward different tools such as “the reversibility test” and an infographic on how to identify and address sexist comments. But whether or not Clinton and other female candidates can escape the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) analysis and criticism of everything unrelated to their politics and policies is still up for debate and will be until 2016.
What tools do the media have to identify and prevent sexist comments and discussions from taking place? Is there a role for candidates in setting the terms of the conversations they will and will not have?
Mark Barabak, Political Writer for the Los Angeles Times