Yesterday Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former president Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, announced she is pregnant – a wonderful moment for the mother-to-be and her family, an opportunity to exhibit sexism in politics for others.
In the Christian Science Monitor, Linda Feldman pondered how Chelsea’s pregnancy might affect her mother’s decision to run, or not, for president. She wrote, “Perhaps it’s sexist even to ask the question – how will a grandchild affect her decision – but until she announces either way, it will be out there. … If we had to guess, we’d say that Hillary Clinton will be a tad less interested in running for president now that she’s about to be a grandmother.”
Perhaps? Try, yes, it is sexist.
Feldman went on to admit, her guess was not based on any facts. “Of course, there’s nothing that says Hillary Clinton can’t be a grandmother and be president.” No, there isn’t.
In USA Today, Catalina Camia wrote, “It’s unclear how Chelsea’s pregnancy will affect Hillary Clinton, who is considering a race for president in 2016.” Can you imagine any newspaper writing that sentence about a male candidate? Fatherhood, never mind grandfatherhood, isn’t seen as a barrier for running the country. In fact most male candidates tout their families as an asset on the campaign trail. Dads are committed, focused candidates but grandmothers are too distracted supporting their daughters and what — knitting booties? Just stop.
Theses stories fall under the heading “subtle sexism,” which I define in The Hello Ladies Guide to Sexism in Politics as, “the kind of sexism that doesn’t necessarily jump off the page but still reveals and perpetuates entrenched attitudes that women don’t belong in Washington.” And we need to call it out when we see it, because sexism, both the overt and the subtle, hurts women. A 2010 poll by Lake Research Partners revealed that “even mild sexist language has an impact on voters’ likelihood to vote for a female candidate and on how favorable they feel toward a woman seeking office.”
We can’t be what we can’t see. And right now we see fathers as leaders, and mothers as incapable of running countries or even companies. It’s a double standard and it’s untrue.