Politics Today: Is My Femininity Being Challenged by Politics?

So let’s talk about politics…

Reflecting on the recent midterm elections - women had an incredible feat. Across the country, women broke various barriers that posed to be obstacles in their political pursuit. Thinking on this, I began to question the views that stick to women who are engaged in politics. This then furthered into the question of whether or not politics affect women’s femininity. I was incredibly curious and pursued to research this topic.

I began by publicly asking for volunteers from each side of the political spectrum to answer a set of questions. I wanted to understand the correlation between political parties and the stigmas that are attached to women that identify under said parties. I received a handful of volunteers that provided intriguing insight. I compiled a list of questions that I asked, which were the following:

  1. What is your political party?

  2. How do you think the public (opposers) view your party?

  3. What do you think being a woman in your party means? Is there a certain role or characteristic that it brings?

  4. Given the views of your party, do you know any stigmas or stereotypes that others outside of your party project onto women who fall in this same political area as you?

  5. Do you think these stereotypes affect the way people view your femininity? In other words, do you feel that your femininity is challenged based on these stigmas and your political party?

The responses to these questions held various similarities across the board. There were a couple of women representing the Democratic Party that expressed that they thought the public views their party as “sensitive snowflakes” and “unknowledgeable” of many things. One woman said, “I feel that many Republicans view most of the Democrats as uneducated, violent children almost…” This was a rather agreed upon feeling throughout the Democratic responders. Another woman stated that she felt Republican woman view Democratic women as “too emotionally invested”, that they “are too loose and willy-nilly with their opinions and that they lack obedience to rules.” There was an agreeance that Democratic women were essentially hyper-emotional and in some cases, too openly sexual. Some even said that Republicans view ALL Democratic women as lazy, unmotivated females that rely on Welfare and the help of the government. Even that they are bad mothers because of their leniency with their children and family structure, saying that Republican women have much more “structured” family lives and are less emotionally connected with their children. “I think there is a stigma that Democratic women are ultra-progressive, that we believe in taking away the second amendment rights. There are people who believe Democratic women are the women who create false claims against men.”

When asked if they felt their femininity was challenged, every Democratic responder said yes. One said,” I definitely feel femininity is challenged. I feel sometimes to seem more knowledgeable I have to tone down my femininity in order to be taken seriously. I feel being feminine is a disadvantage in politics and being taken seriously in any conversation about political, economic or social issues. Being feminine would mean being too sensitive and unable to weigh-in on any topics.” She continued, “Over time, I have become less outwardly feminine because of negative stigmas surrounding it. I think any woman in any political sphere is expected to be less feminine or they will be labeled as sensitive.”

On the other hand, Republican women, as well as those who were independent leaning to the right, stated that they felt that many Democrats view the red side as “Bitchy, anti-abortionists” who were much more regressive than progressive. One woman said, “ I feel that Democrats believe a woman has to be completely heartless and lacking in moral values to be a Republican.” Many stated that there was a stigma that Republican women are either rich and privileged or red-neck racists who follow the political view of their male partners.

“I feel that Republican women are viewed as less feminine. I feel they think that we are all collectively against the LGBTQ+ community and that we are completely disconnected from our own sexuality; that we are all heterosexual robots that are disgusted by homosexual relationships. The problem is that those Republicans that truly fall under these labels are the ones that seemingly paint and solidify the Republican party as a whole. I think the media plays into this as well. They take a story of a disagreeable person in the party, blow up the story and then people associate that person to represent the entire party. It’s difficult” one woman said.

In addition, there were also women who fell in the middle and were wary of identifying with one party because of the stigmas that come with each. One responded, “I’m not liberal completely nor am I anti-republican. I'm in the middle. I can’t pick a party because I am not completely on board with either party…I agree with things like welfare reform like Republicans, but if I saw Liberal, I'm stereotyped as a dumb woman...if I say Republican I’m an uptight bitch who disagrees with abortions...it’s hard to say..but my femininity is challenged regardless to how I sway.”

From this research, I took away the fact that political identity aside, femininity is both threatened and even an obstacle when it comes to politics. The fact that women feel forced to disconnect from their femininity, and that they think they need to harden their demeanor in order to be taken seriously in political, social and economic matters is deeply concerning. It rings the old familiar misogynistic bell that women are “incapable of being a functioning part of the political sphere because of their sensitive nature.” That being feminine is a weakness and even a weapon that is used against them. This was difficult for me to emotionally come to terms with. Politics seem to have a unique gripping effect on womanhood and proves to eject itself in the middle of women holistically. How can we change this? Is there a way for women to reach across the partisan aisle and unite in their views of femininity and womanly values? It is difficult to say, and even more difficult to execute. Maybe this will change someday and bring forth a new frontier for women in politics.