by Natalia Kazakevich, Grade 12
Morris Knolls High School
Morris Knolls, NJ
“Mom, dad, I have something important to tell you. When I grow up I will be president of the United States of America,” said a little girl who thought the sky was her limit. This simple quote marked the beginning of a lifelong dream of a young girl who had one destination in mind: the White House. That young girl was I. Adults laughed at me and told me I would never be able to be a politician, because I was a girl. At first I was insulted, however, as I matured, I understood the logic behind their statements. Female politicians are perceived differently than men due to a political double standard held against them.
As Hilary Clinton described, “Politics is… harder for women. There’s a double standard, and you can’t complain about it. You just have to … be smart enough to navigate it.” Although Clinton is currently Secretary of State, it was not an easy journey for her to earn that position. Another female politician who was criticized heavily during the 2008 election is Sarah Palin. Palin believes that the double standard “makes [women] work that much harder and be that much tougher and more committed to the message and the mission at hand.” Women, unlike men, must face the criticisms that they are too emotional to make rational decisions. To overcome these criticisms, women need to be determined in proving themselves as strong and critical individuals. Any displays of emotions would be seen as signs of weakness in comparison to assertive male politicians.
Moreover, women are often perceived based on their stylistic choices. Women politicians must display elegance and confidence in their outfits, and unlike their male counterparts, how they look plays a large role in how they are perceived by the public. Men wear the classic suit and tie; thus, there is not much room for criticism. The public image of a male politician is based on what they say in speeches, the acts they pass, and their mannerisms. Contrarily, woman like Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama, have teams that create their outfits. They create fashion trends such as the “Palin glasses,” that women look up to, but mean nothing for the world of politics. On the other hand, women like Hilary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt, who have done prodigious amounts for the United States, have been critiqued for their improper attire. A politician should be an enforcer of important changes in their country, not a fashion icon. No matter the gender.
In other words, female politicians in the United States experience a double standard that forces them to work harder than men, because they are quickly labeled as too emotional and judged on their appearance. Nevertheless, it is not impossible for women to become politicians as can be seen through the success of Condoleezza Rice and New Jersey female politicians Susan Bass Levin and Virginia Littell. As Eleanor Roosevelt once explained, a woman needs to have the skin of a rhinoceros to be in politics.<