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6 Things We Need to Stop Saying About Women Running for President

Women Running for President in 2020

Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren: these are the women running for president in 2020.

Every time a qualified woman announces she is running for president, I get excited because I strongly believe we need a woman in the Oval Office. I fully expect that statement to elicit a slew of comments about how that makes me sexist (or anti-men) even though I said “qualified”. People love to shout about “the woman card” and declare that gender shouldn’t matter every time someone celebrates the idea of a woman in the White House—but it does.

Gender matters because we live in a society that is in denial of how incredibly sexist it is. In fact, sexism is so ingrained into the fabric of who we are as a nation that oftentimes it is the people beating progressive drum who are the first to make misogynistic statements when a woman running for president announces her intentions.

If your instant reaction to that last statement is to assume that it doesn’t apply to you, take a moment to ask yourself if you have ever said or thought one or more of the following things about one of the women running for president in 2020.

women  running for  president

6 Statements We Need to Stop Making About Women Running for President in 2020

“She’s unlikable”

Let’s just start with the obvious. If likability were a qualifying factor, we’d have a different person in the White House. That’s the simple, ugly truth. This sexist trope reeks of the outdated expectations women have been trying to escape for years: smile more, don’t be bossy etc. If you found yourself suggesting that candidates like Warren and Harris aren’t likable enough, you need to take a minute to ask yourself what that sentiment is really all about. What do you find so unlikable? And shouldn’t you be turning your attention to her life’s work and accomplishments instead? Let’s not forget: women rarely accomplish anything when they spend all of their energy trying to make everyone like them.

“She’s too old”

Ageist much? Imagine spending your her whole life accumulating the tools, skills, and experience necessary to run a country only to be told at 45, 50, 60, or 65 years of age that you are too old…even when men of the same age (or older) are running beside you without a whisper of reference to their grey hair and wrinkles. The reality is that Americans are perfectly fine with men growing old. In fact, we equate their signs of aging to evidence of wisdom and maturity. Women, on the other hand, are valued for their beauty and youthfulness.  They become irrelevant the minute they are deemed to be “too old”, which starts at a fairly young age (just ask any woman over 40).  

“She’s too young”

When it comes to age, women just can’t win. How quickly we go from being too young and inexperienced to old unlikable hags. The most important question you have to ask yourself is, “What are her qualifications?” That’s your starting point. I know a plethora of women who accomplished ten times as much I had at the age of 40  by the time they were 30-years old. While it might be difficult for many to imagine, a lot can be accomplished in a short amount of time when you are focused on a goal.

Forget age; look at what the candidate has done with the years she has had. There are plenty of 35-year-old women who have more experience, knowledge, and logged hours of service than many of the presidents (and candidates) who came before her.

“She’s too (insert any race)”

I don’t care which it is—don’t bring race into it. We should look at these candidates’ platforms, experience, past performance, and strategies. Since announcements have been made about the various women running for president, I have heard more comments about what race they are than conversations about what they are about. This not only demeans them as women, but it also demeans them as human beings.

women running for president
photo via Elizabeth Warren for President 2020 FB

“She’s not authentic enough”

Seriously? You want women to make themselves likable but they must also be authentic? The reality is that America isn’t ready to see the authentic side of women. The  current  administration’s “locker room talk” is all over the Internet and TV for the world to see and it’s largely dismissed. Hell, it’s old news. And now we’ve all become comfortable with these men’s bad behavior. But man oh man…can you imagine what would happen to a female candidate if her frank talk about sex were to be released to the public?

I mean, Warren had a beer and alcoholics across the states instantly questioned her authenticity. America isn’t ready to deal with the reality of its beer guzzling, whiskey shooting women right now—and it would have a complete meltdown if it heard what women really think and say to each other about sex behind closed doors. I can promise you that.

I could go on and on, but this Washington Post piece does a pretty good job of summing up my feelings on the subject of women running for president and authenticity. Again, let’s look our candidates’ track records instead. I personally don’t care what Warren or Harris or Gabbard drink if they can get our country headed in a positive direction.

“She’s unelectable”

Between, “She’s unlikable,” and, “She’s not authentic,” there are tons of statements I’ve left out like, “Her voice is too shrill.” “She’s unelectable,” essentially encompasses both of the statements above along with everything that falls in between that doesn’t have anything to do with their accomplishments, work histories, platforms and plans for the future.  

photo by Catherine A. Moore Illustration & Design via Kamala Harris for President FB

All of the women currently running for president worked their asses off to get to where they are today. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that they likely had to work twice as hard as the male candidates to position themselves so that they could throw their hats in the ring.

There’s no denying that there are some fantastic men running (and likely to run) for president in 2020. But I think what America needs right now is a real fighter; someone who knows how to get up every time she is unfairly knocked down; someone who is willing to work twice as hard because she knows she has an unfair disadvantage but refuses to let that stop her. America deserves a shero right now. No…America needs a shero right now, and there are several trying to show up for us. I think it’s about time we show up for them.

featured image via Kamala Harris fb

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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.