Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Women On Women

A very interesting study was released yesterday by the Associated Press:
An AP analysis of data from the 2006 American National Election Study Pilot Test found that when it came to selecting a candidate for president, gender matters more for women than for men. But it's a two-way street: Women are more likely to vote for a candidate because she is female, and also more likely to dismiss a candidate because of her gender, according to the analysis.
Meaning that while Hillary gets a first look by women because she's "one of us," women are also much faster to dismiss her as a candidate because she's a woman.

Interesting. Why, do you think, this would happen?
It's in part because some expect the first female president to be a reflection of them, only better, said Marie Wilson, president of the White House Project, a group that aims to encourage women to lead in business and politics.

"We look at them and we say 'We want them to be perfect. ...' We hold them to a higher standard because they do represent us," she said. "Most of the male candidates running wouldn't be running if they were women. A woman John McCain's age would have a hard time, a woman with Barack Obama's experience would have a hard time."
Very interesting.

Granted, there's an idealization factor at play here. Whenever an unusual candidate runs for wide-range offices like Senator or President, we expect them to be like Caesar's wife: above reproach. This may not be a reflection of reality, but who said perception was reality? Remember, this current administration ran as "adults," yet turned out to be petulant children who believed in magic and fairies and miraculous solutions.

When John Kennedy ran as an Irish Catholic candidate, he took great pains to reassure middle Americans that he wouldn't be beholden to the Pope. He won, barely, against a sitting Vice President who had been handicapped by a notorious scandal while Vice President.

It should have been a walk in the park, but for the Catholicism issue (among other smaller issues).

Too, just this year, as Barack Obama has mounted what many consider the first serious contention for the Democratic nomination, we've seen an idealization factor at work, as noted by Senator Joe Biden: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, ... I mean, that's a storybook, man."


This is a deeper issue than just a woman running for President. The newness factor is inherent in many aspects of our culture, and we tend to set up our idols so high on the pedestal, it's impossible for them not to fall.

But with each fall, it makes it easier for the next one to climb a little higher on the pile of debris.