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New research shows sexist remarks influence political outcomes for women

LatinaLista — When it comes to politics, the adages of “turn the other cheek” or “stick and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me” just don’t apply. In fact, by following either age-old advice a political win is diminished substantially, especially for women.

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A new study sponsored by Women’s Media Center, the WCF Foundation and Political Parity found that when a male politician uses sexist language against a female opponent — words like PMS, Ice Queen, Nagging, Cougar, Bitch, Slut, etc — the female politician usually experiences a drop in support.


the study also found that support for the female candidate increased when she called the sexist comments “inappropriate.” The numbers went even higher when the female candidate called the remarks “sexist, divisive rhetoric.”

The lesson being for women politicians is that when opponents, or anyone, uses sexist remarks they need to be called out — and quickly. It does no good for the female candidate to justify or excuse the remarks, regardless of origin, since it only encourages the continued use of language that is not ever used in referring to white male politicians.

The research was released in conjunction with a new sexism awareness campaign called Name It. Change It.: Sexism and Equality Don’t Mix.

The mission of the campaign is simple:

We must erase the pervasiveness of sexism against all women candidates — irrespective of political party or level of office — across all media platforms in order to position women to achieve equality in public office. We will not stand by as pundits, radio hosts, bloggers, and journalists damage women’s political futures with misogynistic remarks. When you attack one woman, you attack all women.

While the research and the campaign are focused on female politicians, the same type of dehumanizing rhetoric to question the qualifications of all candidates of color must also be addressed.

While women candidates are subjected to these kinds of discriminatory insults, the same is true for male candidates of color who can face racist remarks from their opponents. Female candidates of color can face a double aggravation with both sexist and racist remarks directed their way.

As November elections draw near, there’s no doubt that more and more rhetoric will be used to discredit political opponents. We can only hope that voters and the media have the courage to cry foul when such language is used — and stand up for human decency because it should always trump party loyalty.

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