Groups like Name It Change It, She Should Run, and Political Parity all have missions of eliminating sexism from political campaigns and putting female candidates on more equal footing. Central to all these groups is the idea that gender bias is a significant barrier to women’s entry, involvement, and success in the political sphere. In fact, this is the justification for Hillary Clinton’s “super volunteers,” whose mission is to respond aggressively to the media’s sexist mistreatment of Clinton.
In the days following Mrs. Clinton’s presidential announcement, the left framed the conversation as one in which Clinton will be swimming against a sexist current. Articles referred to the “gender-based criticism” she’s endured for decades. Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said in a statement that her “candidacy is a powerful message to girls that they can aspire to the highest office, and an equally powerful message to boys that women can be leaders on an equal footing with men” – as if we didn’t think so already. And liberal-commentator Leslie Marshall wrote in US News the 2016 campaign will be a “War on One Woman.”
For years political science researchers have given credence to this narrative by suggesting that there are fewer women in public office because no one asks them, the political establishment and purse strings are dominated by an old boys network, and pervasive sexism in the media makes running for office more difficult. In effect, it’s given the progressive women’s movement a Maypole to dance around.