Live media literate.

Join Understand Media to get access to our forums, the latest media literacy news, member-only articles, early access to our journals, and much more.

We will never give your info to anyone!

By Devyn S.

The treatment of women’s place in society has transformed since Bella Abzug ran for congress, but can we say they have changed for the better? It seems as though our post feminist era is hurting Hillary more than the anti feminism era was brutalizing Bella. Writer Gloria Steinem explains her view on how women in politics are viewed today saying, “We’ve moved from ridicule and invisibility to serious opposition. First is ridicule, the next wave is  ‘It’s not news anymore.’ First you didn’t need it and now it’s kind of silly and you don’t need it anymore!” While I agree with Aristophanes ideas that a healthy society is one that makes fun of itself and I do enjoy Saturday Night Live, the issue is not about how seriously to take politics as a whole, but the entirely different way the media posed Hillary Clinton in her run for presidency than all other male candidates.

Personally I voted Republican, and have my issues regarding Hillary Clinton for her political views and choices, not for the way she was dressed or because she should have been home tending to the cooking and ironing. The Republicans painted Hillary as a woman that was too harsh to be president. However, if Hillary expressed femininity she would have been laughed off the Senate. It is a given that the media is going to pick at and uncover skeletons in her closet as with any other politician, especially given her husband and the scandals that surrounded him in his presidency. However, it shows the true shallowness and sexist nature of the media in their reaction when they claim she is unfit by her choice of wardrobe or even her physical attractiveness. Jessica Wakeman with the Huffington Post comments, “Clinton’s run for the Democratic nomination has been awash with the most dispiriting ridicule I have seen in my (albeit short) lifetime.” You cannot help but hold your mouth agape when Tucker Carlson, political news correspondent and conservative commentator for the Fox New Channel, as well as co-founder and editor-in chief of The Daily Caller and formerly co-hosted CNN’s Crossfire and MSNVC’s Tucker, a man with an extensive resume in doing nothing but discussing political figures, decides his professional view on Clinton is when Hillary is shown on television he “involuntarily crosses his legs.” Not a single comment was made regarding her points that government should have no role in the abortion decision with the exception of partial birth exception for life threatening abnormalities, or of her efforts to make women and human rights a central talking point of US Initiatives.

The only way Bella Abzug became the first woman in the Senate is due to her demanding respect demeanor and the way she handled her relationships. Suzanne Braun Levine, former Ms. Editor describes her reading  of Abzug as such, “Bella’s style was to demand, not ask, and—for better or for worse—many women who worked along side her are proudly scarred from a Bella Abzug tongue lashing.” Jessica Wakeman, reporter for the Huffington Post rumors “[Abzug] apparently used to say. ‘I’m only yelling at you because I respect you!” It’s that exact toughness that will keep a woman level headed enough to make the hard choices, such as, being the first to call for the impeachment of President Nixon, another of Abzug’s great achievements So when history tells us a strong woman like Bella Abzug that demands respect and is considered “hard” can accomplish things such as pushing through the Equal Credit Act, providing women with fair access to consumer credit, Title IX regulations, and enforcing equal opportunity for women in federally funded educational institutions, being one of the founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus as well as co-authoring the Water Pollution Act of 1972, and co authoring the ground-breaking Freedom of Information Act along with others to guard against Federal agencies abuse for power, how does one say a women like Hillary Clinton, one who’s reputation shies in comparison to Abzug’s hard personality, is not fit for office?

The sexism has to end. Hillary herself comments on the gender inequality she sees herself as well as other women attempting to gain authoritative roles in the political world falling victim to, saying “we need to talk about the way patriarchy functions. It’s not about getting to the table, it’s about changing the table. Too many women in too many countries speak the same language, silence.” It’s time we stand up and speak out.

Works Cited:

Wakeman, Jessica. "On Sexist Media Coverage of Hillary Clinton." The Huffington Post., 27 Apr. 2008. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

"Bella Abzug | Jewish Women's Archive." Bella Abzug | Jewish Women's Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

"Women of Valor - Bella Abzug - Congress's Hardest Working Member | Jewish Women's Archive." Women of Valor - Bella Abzug - Congress's Hardest Working Member | Jewish Women's Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

"Split Decision: Should Hillary Clinton Be the next President?" The Connection :. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.