How public and male politician use language to show prejudice on female politician?

As an Asian – American women, I am the minority of this community. Because of my nationality and gender, it gives me a huge disadvantage to survive in this society. Everyone is saying how their “American Dream” is to change the world and make America great. For me, my “American Dream” is to change the public perspective on gender equality. Despite these unfair expectations (as an Asian – American women), I am still committed to this dream and have the ambition to join the politics. Till now, I still remember what is the reason that influences me to have this dream. In 2014, the UN Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, delivered a speech about gender inequality and how women are perceived in the world. She once said

“fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating.”

This is the prospect that I wanted to make different.  

1. Cover page of Daily Mail 

Recently, there is a scandalize news on Daily Mail, because of their sexist cover or Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon. From the cover page and the text box at the side, we can definitely see that it is a sensitive topic to touch on, especially when you are publishing a newspaper.    

From this example of Britain prime minister Theresa May and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, the text beside the image suggests a sexist concept. As Brexit is a significant incident in the current society, the journalist has made a joke of out this issue. The image is actually a photo of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon talking about the situation that Britain is now in, Brexit. If you are one of them, what will you feel when you see this cover page? You, as a woman, you are not value based on your decision-making skills but your female features, in this case, your legs. What an unpleasant praise. The language used here is probably trying to maintain the existing dominance of men, it might be because they will threaten by high-status women.

2. Subtle sexism in politics (Photo Usage)

As any women will tell you, in our life, from social media, sexist is not always manifest clearly to the public. However, they still exist on the dark side of society. Let’s take a recent incident of Massachusetts Congressional Candidate Brianna Wu, who called out on the Boston Globe for using an old photo of her, portraying her as an unprofessional, next to the two male candidates in suites. How would you feel if an old picture of your past life got exposed after a few years, in a situation when you are running for politics. Of course, you might feel insecure or even disrespected. But mostly, you might think that sexism is taking place too. 


In the image above, you can see that the photo naturally create a contrast between the other two pictures which gives out a sense of professional and not for the female candidate. This is definitely a careless intention act. She said and I quoted, 

“They choose pictures of my opponents wearing suits. They pick one of me from Gamergate where I’m wearing a t-shirt and have bright anime hair.I literally did a photo shoot with them wearing a dress and heels a week ago.”

Nowadays, media coverage of female politician often focuses more on family roles, appearance, and even public expectations. Using an old and unprofessional photo of a female candidate can really affect the image and the impression that the public perceives of the candidate. As pictures are also a form of language. With different usage of images, it will bring out an extreme view in different situations. If you are using an offhand photo, this could affect one’s character and reputations in the eyes of the public. In extreme cases, it might even cause riots or protest because of the overt sexism.

3. Ambiguous Word Choices 

First of all, when I said the word  “ambitious” and “assertive,” what would you immediately think of? A woman? Maybe not quite. You will probably imagine a figure which suggests masculinity, more like a man. After that, if I said the word “compassion” and “loyal, what would you think of? A man? Definitely not. Most people will think of a figure with more femininity characteristic like a woman. But why will this happen? Why will we think of a woman when the word “compassion” is used? Why not men? Men can be compassion about something. 

When you look at the picture above, how would you describe them individually? You will probably represent the man as powerful, leadership and have ambitious. What about the women? Will you say that the women are powerful? Will you say that the woman has command? Will you say that the woman has ambitious? Although the woman in the picture is powerful in her own way, there is a low chance that you would ever call this woman powerful. These adjectives might seem harmless, but they have been categorized by scholars or even the public.

For men, ambitious men suggest that he has a vision and have a positive impact on them. However, for women, ambitious women might mean being controlling and bossy. (From the public point of view) Because ambitious women do not match with the image of a woman suppose to be, they are expected to be a family woman and not a career woman.

For example, Hillary Clinton. She is ambitious. She had an attempt on going to a higher status place and being a more powerful woman. She is powerful. That’s why there is this meme of her shouting aggressively like she is not supposed to do because she is a woman. And women are supposed to be kind, generous and elegant.

This study uses the Ben Sex-Role inventory, created by a psychologist, Sandra Bem, in the 1970s which categorize language into masculine, feminine based on how individual words are anticipated by the public. Even though this test might seem outdated, a recent meta-analysis found that it is surprisingly stable.

You might think that this is still not enough as evidence to assume that everyone thinks like this. Furthermore, there are other experiments to test whether subtle word choices matter to the image of any female politician. Through this experiments, we found that they do matter.

” When a woman politician is described with masculine-coded adjectives was seen 10 percent more qualified than the 7 percent of women politician who is described with femininity adjectives. “

Additionally, a survey that has been conducted by Rachel Garrett and Dominik Stecula has shown that when they are reading a news story that did not include any gender identifiers, 80% of them assume that the candidate they read about is a male. This also brings out the issue that there is still a strong expectation that the political profession is still considered a “man’s” job.


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