The participation of women in politics and holding public office has been achieving significant growth in the United States. Although this is true, the path towards having women in the society equal men in the contest for public office seems not to be very smooth. This situation can be attributed to a number of factors that revolve around a male dominated society. Over decades, there has been growing concern over the place and role of women in politics. This is because women have never received adequate representation in politics and public office. All through in the history of mankind women have never featured prominently over men in politics. “Historically, women faced barriers from old-boy networks that controlled political party apparatuses as well as from voters’ presumed reluctance to vote for women.” (CQ 2008 p 5)
Although there has been notable increase in the number of women occupying public office in the United States, there is still much to be done to achieve equality in terms of males and females in the political arena. Since the colonial era women had been locked out of public office until 1800 and in the early 20th century in other parts of the country. But despite such barriers, women have continued for their rightful position in the politics of America. This has been through political movements until when they were prohibited in the late 19th century.
There are forces since time immemorial that tend to deter women from actively participating and pursuing political ambitions. First of all history has seen it since the times of Adam and Eve, that men are more superior to women. This notion has continued to be dominant in the society. The society and in this case both men and women feel like women cannot make it to certain positions in the society especially where leadership is concerned. The continued dominance of men in all spheres of life is the number one cause of women being left behind in politics.
All the avenues that lead to public office are manned by men. This has an implication that a woman getting public approval for woman has been a very difficult process that tends to deter many from pursuing political office.
In America, significant women who have rose to public offices have gone through many challenges and there path to success has not been so smooth you can bet me. A woman like Victoria Wulsin had to go through a number of doubts before making it in the field of public health. While undergoing her studies, there was discouragement even from the professors who were supposed to have encouraged her from pursuing her career. The men in the society hold a perception that certain things cannot just be handled by women. A good example is of a Republican party leader who thought that Jean Schmidt could not get along with trade unions in Ohio in the 1989. Surprisingly she went fro it and got it.This was a sure indicator that these perceptions by men are quite misleading.
Party politics make it very difficult for women to run for public office. Since they are the vehicles that take men into public office, parties have for a long time not favored women.
Party divisions have continued to thwart efforts by women to ascend to public office. This can be blamed to the dominating male issues at the grassroots which matter a lot in the elections to political office. Women have held the vote for a very long time but it is unfortunate that they become less important at the grassroots. This is why most of them do not get far in presidential races. Most of them are discriminated against or do not just get tough at party level. No wonder the Republican Party had very few slots for women in the 2008 elections in the United States. With this kind of scenario in mind then one is tempted to assert that women have a very long way to go in trying to equal men in participation in politics and holding crucial public offices like the presidency.
The run for public office in history has been marked by publicity and media influence.
The role played by the media has also been an important contributor of women being left behind in politics. The press has been noted to be biased against women in the course of pursuing political office. Women campaigns for political office have ended up being trivialized by the press. This can be a very big deterrent to other women aspirants.This is because of the fact that women in their nature have been known to be very sensitive to personal issues. Victoria Woodhull was running for political office in 1872 and the press was on record for trivializing her because of her attire and mode of dressing. She was described as a petticoat politician. This was a very serous damage to women as it affects their self image and self esteem. Related cases have continued to be perpetrated by the press and is can act as a deterrent to most women who have the fear of being branded funny names by male journalists and other people in the press.
Unfair treatment of women because of their gender is also to be blamed for their lack of prominenence in politics. In races where there are males and females, women have received unfair treatment especially from the media. This has gone even to the extent of bad comments on the internet and on TV. There were allegations that Sen. Hillary Clinton received unfair treatment against her opponent Sen. Barrack Obama in the run for America’s presidency. Studies conducted to examine press treatment concluded that Sen. Hillary Clinton received more critical treatment than her opponent. New York Times brought out an issue that Sen. Clinton was being singled out for the first question in political debates , a situation that favored Obama to criticize what she had said. This is an indicator that even though discrimination against gender is on the decline there is still evidence of unfair treatment with men being favored over female opponents.
During the presidential campaigns there were incidences of sexist coverage from the media. “..Press obsession with women’s clothes is part of trivialization of women candidates.” (CQ 2008 p14)
A good example was demonstrated by Chris Mathews of MSNBC referred to Sen Clinton as “witchy” and “uppity woman”. Another Fox News contributor said that when Barrack speaks men hear take off for the future and when Hillary speaks men hear take out the garbage” This remarks cannot be in favor of the spirit of fairness for all in the political arena. Such remarks are a clear indication that there was biasness and this is one major challenge that women contenders should brace to face if they have to run for public office.
With the achievements that have so far been achieved by women like Hillary Clinton, there is hope for change with more women being elected into public office. This is because women have began discovering wasted potentials in them. They are just refusing to conform to the stereotype that women cannot be tough like their male counterparts in the run for races into public office.However it is vital mentioning that women who are out there to seek public office are challenged with a double bind problem as it has been described by political analysis expert Kathleen Hall. The problem is how they can prove to the society that indeed they deserve the position with their feminine status. It is unfortunate that this situation is still inexistence even after Sen. Hillary Clinton proved to the whole world that indeed a woman can hold the nations most coveted office.This is despite unfair treatment by sections of the media. “Many observers agree that Clinton has been ill served by the media coverage in her campaigns” ( CQ 2008 p 15 )
Women being tough enough to face the challenge is in doubt. This is so because women can easily be carried away by emotions and this puts in doubt they can be genuine enough to face up the challenge. Never the less, with the increasing number of women in the United States congress, there is notable growth in the participation of woman in politics and governance. What has so far been demonstrated by Hillary Clinton is a breakthrough and in the next general election there is expectation of a good number of women contending for the top job in the country. Women should not give up because there are still avenues through which they can breakthrough and ascend to highest levels of power just like the men do.
CQResearcher. 2008.www.cqresearcher.com,volume 18,Number 12,pages 265-288
Martin Janet M, The Presidency and women;Promise performance and illusion, Texas A&M Press 2003.