Wednesday June 22, 2016

Sexism on the campaign trail: How Hillary Clinton can shatter the glass ceiling

Now that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate, strategists say she'll have to create a careful strategy to address the unique and unprecedented campaign issues, including her gender.

Now that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate, strategists say she'll have to create a careful strategy to address the unique and unprecedented campaign issues, including her gender. (Jim Young/Reuters)

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In Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House, the conversation around gender is unavoidable. The U.S. Democratic candidate herself has famously called the Oval Office the highest, hardest glass ceiling.

Misogyny in politics is no shock to political strategist Siobhan "Sam" Bennett either. She explains to The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti how sexism plays out on the campaign trail.

"The obstacles when it comes to politics are daunting. Voters just assume that a man is qualified. A woman has to prove that she is qualified," Bennett said.

This rings true when looking at female candidates and their economic plans according to Celinda Lake, a leading political strategist with the Democratic Party.

Lake tells Anna Maria that research from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation shows  "both Democratic and Republican women have a disadvantage on the economy."

USA-ELECTION/CLINTON

According to Kelly Dittmar, a Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, America is ready to have a female president but Hillary will have to walk a fine line strategically. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Lake adds that women "have to prove they have an economic plan" and says "in both parties women are presumed to be less good on the economy than men are."

Republican rival  Donald Trump is infamous for pointing out gender numerous times in the U.S. presidential election, saying Clinton is playing "the women's card" and if she were a man "she'd get five per cent of the vote."

But Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, says Trump is "actually the candidate who has been playing the gender" including trying to emasculate his opponents.

"In regard to his aggressiveness, he's tried to prove that he's man enough for the job, something that we desired in presidents until now … Throughout the primary and into the general election, he's questioning the strength and stamina of his opponents. He's talking about his own masculinity," Dittmar tells The Current.

The response from voters digesting the rhetoric is something Lake shares with Anna Maria. "Sixty per cent cent of the voters find Donald Trump comments repugnant, interestingly it's about even between men and women."

Name It Change It research studies the obstacles women face running for office and all three panellists are involved in the joint project. Bennett says this research has brought sexism out in politics and says she's proud that the word "sexism" has been used on this campaign trail so often.

Bennett tells Anna Maria how the sexism affects votes.

"When women receive sexist attack … that reminds voters that they are a woman, they plummet electorally … But as long as they respond, as long as they use the 's' word, the 'sexist' word and others can chime in on their behalf, they regain all their lost votes."

Listen to our full conversation at the top of this post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith, Ines Colabrese and Taylor Simmons.