Study: Female Politicians Are Defined By Their Deficits
5:00 pm, June 12th | by Colette McIntyre
Research published in last month’s Political Research Quarterly attested that abstract gender stereotypes do not translate into direct decisions to vote for or against female candidates “in any meaningful way” — which was good news; something as silly as traditional gender stereotypes shouldn’t impact voting behavior. Yet a new study by political scientists Monica C. Schneider and Angela L. Bos suggests that gender stereotypes don’t affect female candidates because voters don’t know how to stereotype female politicians…or whether female leaders are “female” at all.
“Voters seem to be ambivalent towards female politicians and to have ill-defined ideas about what it means to be a female politician,” Schneider and Bos write in the latest issue of Political Psychology “Despite gains in the percentage of politicians who are female, there may still not be enough women in office for voters to form a consensus of stereotypical qualities.” After comparing female politician stereotypes to other comparable groups such as politicians and female professionals, they found that female politician stereotypes were “nebulous” and “lacked clarity.” In short, study participants didn’t know what to think about female politicans. Get a women in a pantsuit and put her in charge of a municipality, city, state, or nation, thereby defying traditional gender roles and the status quo, and people’s brains melt. WOMYN LEADER!? DOES NOT COMPUTE!! %$@!(! 0110! BEEP BOOP! COMPUTER LANGUAGE!
The chart below represents a section of Schneider and Bos’ data. Take a look at the qualities that are ascribed to women and how often they are selected to describe female politicians. While 93.5 percent of the study’s participants describe women as “feminine” and “emotional” only 45.1 percent and 29.4 percent used the same terms to describe female politicians. The gaps only widen as you go down the line of gendered traits. Compassionate, affectionate, sympathetic — while these were all terms that participants used to describe the broad group of “women” they apparently weren’t appropriate for female politicians. Evidently women politicians and women share very little in common.
According to Schenider and Bos’ conclusions, we define female politicians more by their perceived “deficits” than their strengths.”In addition to failing to possess the strengths associated with being women (e.g., sensitive or compassionate),” the authors write. “Female politicians [are seen to] lack leadership, competence, and masculine traits in comparison to male politicians.” So female politicians aren’t masculine enough to be adequate politicians and aren’t feminine enough to be adequate women…? And people want to tell me that sexism doesn’t exist? Ugh, I need a drink. What about you, Hill-Dog?