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Sexism In American Politics: Is USA Finally Ready For A Woman In The White House?

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By Annie Fraser

The 2016 US Presidential Elections present yet another long-awaited moment in US history. With two women having declared their candidacy, the US is positioned, once more, to produce its first woman President. In the face of the excitement and hope of what could be, one important question still remains: is the US ready for women in power?

hillary vs carly

Although not entirely unexpected, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her Democratic candidacy on April 12, 2015. Somewhat less expected, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina announced her Republican candidacy on May 4, 2015. Though both the women boast significant yet varied experience, the two candidates currently face major hurdles as the elections draw closer and pressures rise. Clinton holds an impressive track record experience and popularity that cannot be easily matched by current and potential candidates, including Fiorina, but faces widespread criticism about Benghazi and her recent email transparency practices. Although Fiorina’s political career is limited to serving as an advisor in John McCain’s 2008 Presidential Election campaign and being defeated in the 2010 California Senate election, she has been a notable leader in business. However, her turbulent term and dissatisfactory performance as CEO has led many to question her ability to shift from business to politics and be successful in the Oval Office.

Despite their many differences in experience and political views, the two women are likely to face a common obstacle that none of the other candidates will face: sexism.

Unfortunately, Clinton has confronted sexism for years, most recently (and not surprisingly) from Republican “crazies” such as the many running attacks by Rush Limbaugh (“testicle lockbox”, “hysterical”, and “bossy” being a few of some direct quotes) but even Democrat MSNBC host Chris Matthews referred to Clinton as looking “witchy” back in 2005. Sexism has been so negatively prominent throughout Clinton’s current and previous campaigns that a number of Clinton supporters, self-declared as the HRC Super Volunteers, have pledged to track and address the media’s use of sexist words, to which they refer to as “coded sexism”.

Similarly, Fiorina also has her fair share of battling sexism. She has publicly voiced her opinion against sexism, from pledging intolerance to sexist attacks against Sarah Palin, McCain’s Vice Presidential candidate during her role as McCain’s advisor, to criticizing instances of gender-specific scrutiny and/or favoritism in the workplace. Sexism against Fiorina has become more pronounced recently in the few months leading up to her presidential candidacy announcement. At a press conference in April, a ‘Washington Examiner’ reporter said, “Well, ma’am, I never met a presidential candidate with pink nail polish”.

The aforementioned attacks against Clinton and Fiorina are not in isolation, nor are they the only female politicians to have suffered from such attacks. Sexism against female candidates not only hurts their chances for success, but also presents serious negative implications for the future of country as this sexism trickles down to other sectors and aspects of the economy and daily life. It is quite appalling that, as a global “superpower”, the US has yet to elect a woman President, and this obvious past and present inability to cope with women in power may cause it to lag behind more accepting and progressive nations.

Given the history of sexism against Clinton, Fiorina, and other female politicians, it will be interesting to see if and how sexism will play a role in opposing candidates’ strategies, media attention, and public opinion. Only time can tell, but the results may provide insightful future outlooks.

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    Sexism? LOL!

    Two million of Hillary Clinton’s Twitter fans and thousands of Facebook fans are fake. Also, the only reason she should win is because she is a woman!

    1. TheSeeker

      B, for the first time, I agree with you.

    2. B

      This is your thousandth comment agreeing with me for the “first” time.

    3. TheSeeker

      I’m 100% sure I haven’t agreed with you before on anything, unless you had another name on YKA other than “B” 😉 . Then, I wouldn’t know.

    4. B

      I’m 100% sure you have agreed with other names on YKA.

    5. TheSeeker

      Ok, so what other names do you go by, then?

    6. B


    7. TheSeeker

      You’ll make an amazing comedian.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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