In order to create gender equality in society, it needs to begin in House first
Wen Zhai // Contributor
Lillian Zhang // Illustrator
Due to gender stereotypes perpetuated by patriarchal societies, women in politics face far more scrutiny and hostility than their male counterparts. Often, just daring to participate in politics is their only crime.
As a Twitter tourist one day in July, I came across a tweet criticizing a US congresswoman for comments taken out of context. It shouldn’t have surprised me because these last four years have shown anything goes in Trump’s administration. But human curiosity persisted, so I clicked on it and pursued the story. That’s how I was introduced to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), the youngest woman to ever serve in the United States Congress. She was only twenty-nine when she took office in 2018, beating a long-term white male politician.
Even as feminism becomes a household term, misogyny still prevails where gender rights and equality are most needed: politics. On July 23, AOC addressed senior congressman Ted Yoho after he verbally abused her on the steps of the Capitol and in front of the press. In the powerful speech, she called out the plague that is misogyny in politics, asserting that having a daughter or wife didn’t automatically make the congressman who accosted her, or any man, decent. Her critics completely misrepresented her speech, butchering her message about feeling fortunate that her father was not alive to see his daughter mistreated and humiliated by a congressman.
AOC is daring and outspoken when she advocates for many issues, including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. These were some of the reasons Yoho had the guts to blatantly call her “disgusting,” “crazy,” “dangerous,” and “fucking bitch” in front of the press. He was not alone in trashing a woman this way, and his actions are not an anomaly.
Feeling entitled to power is prevalent among men across the globe. When women lead, many men see this as a threat to their own power and see women as rebels that need to be suppressed. They label women as too emotional and incapable of making rational decisions while expecting women to fit into gender stereotypes: meek and obedient.
Intersectionality must be considered when looking at sexism because women of colour (disabled women, queer and trans women etc.) face far more obstacles than their white counterparts (or able-bodied, heterosexual, cis, etc.).
If they show determination, intelligence or critical thinking, they are often called “nasty” and labelled radical. But after Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, who can honestly say women are more emotional and irrational than men?
However, men aren’t the only threat to gender equality—internalized misogyny is often just as visible. The most recent reminders were BC Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite’s misogynistic comments sexualizing Bowinn Ma’s interaction with male colleagues and the three per cent increase in Trump’s votes by white women from the 2016 to 2020 elections.
Someone once said, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” It’s important to remember that not all men have the same amount of privilege depending on race, class, sexual orientation, ability, etc.—but they have far more than their female peers. Intersectionality must be considered when looking at sexism because women of colour (disabled women, queer and trans women etc.) face far more obstacles than their white counterparts (or able-bodied, heterosexual, cis, etc.). Apart from AOC’s breakthrough, Kamala Harris became the first Black, South Asian, and female vice president-elect in the US. While all those who strive for gender equality are cheering, these moments themselves are the testimony that they are long overdue—especially considering women constitute at least half of the population.
History has shown that despite male protest, women lead, and they lead well. Gender bias has made it difficult for women leaders in modern societies to gain support. Yet, countries with women leaders, often much younger than their male counterparts, like Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and Sanna Marin of Finland, are thriving and have been more successful in handling the pandemic.
It is time to abolish gender stereotypes and misogynistic nonsense and recognize the power of women. Leadership positions should go to those qualified, and it shouldn’t be a boys’ club. It is great that we celebrate women who make history in politics, but we should strive for a future where their success is no longer celebrated solely as women’s success.