Opinion: Are we comfortable with women in positions of power?

The representation of women in leadership roles has signifi­cantly increased in recent years, along with recognition for the impor­tance of female influence. For example, the recent congressional elections of 2018 saw unprecedented amounts of newly elected women in political roles, with a record breaking number of 112 women serving. While increased fe­male leadership is a great step forward for our nation and the world, there remains disparities in the ways in which media portrays women in positions of power compared to men.

For instance, take the statements made by Rashida Tlaib, representative of Michigan’s 13th congressional dis­trict. When she was quoted saying “…we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the mother***er!” in reference to President Donald Trump, she was met with public backlash and harsh criticism.

In a whirlwind of headlines, Amer­ica hears about her comments as the “vulgar rant” or “vile rhetoric,” as cat­egorized by Fox News. Michigan Con­gresswoman Tlaib was subsequently painted as unprofessional and inap­propriate by media outlets.

While Tlaib’s use of the swear word may have been unnecessary, it is evi­dent that she was treated more harsh­ly than certain men in politics who have also used the same or worse crude language.

For example, take Matthew Dowd, former campaign manager for Dick Cheney, who was once quoted saying “Go f*** yourself” to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. While Dowd himself never apologized for his own profane comment, he called for Tlaib to apol­ogize for her use of profanity.

To find more examples of the dis­tinctions in the level of accountabil­ity given to men vs. women in leader­ship positions, we only need to listen to the words of our own president. Trump’s infamous expressions such as, “Grab them by the p***,” “Why do we want all these people from ‘s***hole countries’ coming here?” or “Get that son of a b**** off the field right now” have not only been dismissed and downplayed by right wing media, but have even garnered him more support.

The differential expectation of women and men within positions of power is clearly demonstrated by these instances. Media holds women to a different standard and gives men more freedom of expression.

Women in leadership positions are subjected to an extra set of criticisms from the media ranging from how they look, what they wear, their per­sonalities and even their family lives. When the media passes judgment on women in politics, these are the char­acteristics they focus on rather than the policies they make.

There is a deeply rooted bias in our media and our society at large as re­spect and recognition is often given to men over women, especially in the political arena. Women in power are either labeled as incompetent if they act less assertive, or “bossy” or a “b****” if they actually are assertive and demand respect.

Consider Trump’s response to Tlaib’s comments: “I think she dishon­ored herself and I think she dishon­ored her family.” The sheer hypocrisy in his statement is astonishing con­sidering that he has been involved in numerous scandals and has been the subject of many instances of distaste­ful language and behavior.

The differential representation and level of respect that women face in the media’s portrayal of them reminds us that the perfect union we are all long­ing for is still a ways away. That is, until we see equal opportunity, repre­sentation and respect in politics for all Americans — including women.


Alyssa Tatro

Alyssa majors in urban studies and community development. She is interested in and concerned about issues in Tacoma that impact the community. She is obsessed with all things chocolate and piggies.