Graphics by Al McLeroy
The past few years have seen an unprecedented increase in elected female officeholders. There were almost as many major female presidential candidates in 2020 than in all previous presidential elections, a record number of women serve in the House, and the 2016 presidential election saw the first female presidential nominee of a major American political party.
However, at the time of writing, all of these female presidential candidates dropped out, most Congresspeople are men, and the aforementioned female presidential nominee in 2016, Hillary Clinton, lost. Studies showed that more sexist Democratic primary voters were more likely to vote for men, a 2010 Harvard study found both men and women more likely to dislike a female, and more likely to like a male, politician described as power-hungry, and many columnists such as Elie Nystal proclaimed that “Sexism Sank Elizabeth Warren,” the last major female presidential candidate who dropped out.
But Hillary Clinton still won nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump. The aforementioned Harvard study also found respondents more likely to like a female politician than a male one if they see neither as power-hungry, another study found “candidate sex does not affect journalists’ coverage of, or voters’ attitudes toward, the women and men running for office,” and women congressional candidates are about as likely to win as men.
However, despite this, most Congresspeople remain men, so, logically, far fewer women run for office than men. Studies of college students also found college-aged women far less likely than men to harbor political ambitions.
Society, not innate gender differences, creates this lack of political ambition. Young children are equally likely to harbor political ambitions regardless of gender, but socialization means girls disproportionately lose political ambitions as they age. According to a 2017 Boise State University study, “young women are not being encouraged to engage in politics due to a social perception that women are not qualified for political office.”
This social discouragement is particularly pertinent to Las Lomas, as most girls who lose political ambitions do so during adolescence. Young, politically-ambitious Las Lomas women would do well to know that most Americans think themselves comfortable with a woman president, regardless of socialization’s effects.
Regardless of Americans’ stated willingness to accept female candidates for elected office, however, one cannot discount perceived sexism’s effects on politics. Though most Americans call themselves comfortable with a women President, most Americans also do not think their fellow Americans are. The Democratic electorate consistently expressed concerns about Warren and other female candidates’ electability.
However, some women of the Las Lomas community interviewed did not share these concerns. When asked if she thinks a woman could realistically be elected President, sophomore Moxie Marsh answered “yes.” Similarly, junior Annalise Anderson stated “of course,” and that “I… think a [woman] could have been elected… if it had been the right person. I think [in] the past couple years… people have grown more open to… a woman being [President].” Lauren Ross, the mother of Las Lomas students, believes that “a woman can realistically be elected President. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote after all.”
Although these interviewees all believed a woman could be elected President, they differed, much like others, in the candidates they supported. Marsh has “supported” Bernie Sanders “the whole election… I believe he has the most policies [aligning] with my beliefs,” while Anderson supported Elizabeth Warren, “because of her [belief] healthcare [is] a universal right… and… her wealth tax would… In general[,] I just align more with her democratic ideals and [her work] towards equity.” As with Anderson, Elizabeth Warren “won [Lauren Ross’s] heart.” However, Ross ultimately voted for Joe Biden, because “by the time the primaries came to California, it was clear that Elizabeth Warren had no chance. The determining factor for my vote was that [a candidate’s electability]. I believed that Biden had a better chance of beating Trump than Sanders.”
These interviewees similarly believe it is important to elect a woman President, with Ross stating that “we are 50% of the population and it’s time we had this power. A woman president would offer a different perspective on issues and would address some of the inequities that are present. She would also serve as a role model for younger women and girls… That said, I would not vote for a woman president simply because she is a woman… I would sooner vote for a male candidate with progressive values than a conservative woman candidate, just because she is a woman.” Anderson similarly believed that “it’s important that a woman be elected President, but… she should win because people believe in her abilities and [beliefs]. If a woman was elected just because she was a woman it would mean nothing for progression.” Marsh also believes “having a woman President is incredibly important”, but that she “would never [endorse] someone just because they are [a] woman” and, like Ross, she would “support a liberal male over a conservative woman.”
All of these interviewees considered women’s issues important, but this belief did not always translate to support for a female presidential candidate. Ross believes that “either Biden or Sanders will advance these issues of importance,” such as “inequality in the workplace, lack of women in decision making positions, education and protection for women who are victims of violence,” and issues such as “economic policy” which “disproportionately affect women and minorities,” while Marsh believed that “if a female candidate is not looking out for more groups of women than [a] male candidate, [then] the [one] helping more women is the best choice.” Women’s issues made Anderson “want to vote for a female more,” but she “in general liked Warren.”