Sisterhood Blog

Gender and the Mass. Election

By Sarah Seltzer

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“Raise your hand if you are nervous about the election in Mass tomorrow? My hand is up!” tweeted the National Council for Jewish Women’s Sammie Moshenberg yesterday.

Indeed, all eyes are trained on the great state of Massachusetts today as the special election for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat threatens to turn the tide or even derail healthcare reform. Squaring off at the center of the storm are Martha Coakley, a seemingly- ackluster Democratic candidate who got the support of all the big name women’s groups like NOW and more, and Scott Brown, a state senator who has campaigned using his pickup truck and once posed nude in the pages of Cosmo. And it looks like Brown might win. The combination of an uninspiring campaign from Coakley, an overwhleming wave of anger from the right, and a mix of indifference and discomfort with filling Ted Kennedy’s long-held seat may be combining to spell Coakley’s doom — although of course, we won’t know the outcome until tonight.

As much as fault lies with Coakley, and the Democrats at large, for mishandling aspects of healthcare reform process and this election (as Dana Goldstein reports, even women aren’t flocking to Coakley’s camp, it’s hard not to see some gender dynamics at play here, in a state that has never popularly elected a female senator or governor. Imagine if a competent but somewhat uncharismatic man were running against a small-time female politico relying largely on her folksy charm, and imagine if said politico had once posed in her birthday suit in Maxim with pictures freely available online. There would certainly be more outrage and controversy, if not a direct effect at the polls.

The point is that in America, female candidates, no matter how well-credentialed, have to work twice as hard and be twice as willing to do whatever it takes to win — and then, like Hillary Clinton has done, they will have to deal with the stereotypes that follow. While the double-standard means the women that are elected tend to be competent and well-vetted, the threshold to get there is most definitely higher. Unless of course, we’re talking about Sarah Palin.

Have any Sisterhood readers been following the election, and if so, do you see gender issues at play or is it simply a matter of who’s out-campaigned whom?


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, Scott Brown

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Comments
James Tue. Jan 19, 2010

I think gender has played as much a factor as race in this campaign.

It's about two things: health care and incompetent campaigning. We saw the same thing with Creigh Deeds in Virginia. You lay down, take a vacation during your campaign, are surprised when asked why you aren't out there campaigning ("What, shake hands in the cold?") and are then surprised that your hard-working opponent outpolls you?

Playing the gender card here just devalues the gender card, not Brown's campaign. Stop the soft bigotry of low expectations for women, and treat incompetent women like you treat incompetent men!

David Tue. Jan 19, 2010

James, Well said! Being victims is so much more comfortable then reality. Perhaps having a gender quota for all political offices would solve the issue.

allie Wed. Jan 20, 2010

Not at all. Please, do not fabricate excuses and agitate without a real cause. I actually agree with James that your challenge undermines women and lowers expectations of them compared to men. However, I am not sure that 'shaking hands in the cold' would help much. The majority of intelligent people in MA and in the rest of US, are disillusioned, no longer inspired by mere message of some 'hope'. Face it, it's time to cut losses, admit mistakes, regroup and this time take into account all of us, assess reality and not base your decisions on hope alone.




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