Democrat Or Republican, Political Women Have a Tough Road To Walk

As Meghan McCain writes, "to be a powerful woman in politics is to be controversial."

McCain muses on political women in the public eye, noting:

Through it all, the example both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin set is so admirable. I respect any woman who will go out there and run for office. Maybe it's a cliché, but no matter how many differences I may have with a woman politically, there is still a sense of kinship I feel for a woman in politics.

But having seen female candidates attacked on the right and the left, why would any woman my age ever feel inspired to run for office? What kind of example has the media set for my generation of women? I struggle with this. I don't have ambitions to run for office-I have already done enough campaigning for one lifetime-but I already have a pretty good idea of what it would feel like. I have often wondered how the media would react if it were my brother writing these columns and speaking out on behalf of moderate Republicans. I can pretty much bet that his weight wouldn't have been an issue.

Very true, and it speaks to the grueling arena of politics that becomes doubly treacherous for women. While the GOP's women silencing tactics may be a bit more overt, neither party does a good job in supporting women in positions of power, or throwing its party might behind women aspiring to elected office. While the Obama administration fights the image of being a separate but mostly equal boys club, the Republicans are battling their own image crisis. In addition to shouting down women's groups, the party is currently having trouble retaining women who are interested in leadership positions.

It wasn't always this way. When Pryce was first elected in 1992, Republicans had recruited so many female candidates that then-Conference Chairman Jerry Lewis of California ordered up posters featuring their several dozen smiling faces.

But there are just 17 Republican women in the House today.

And with less than a year to go before the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans have enlisted just 13 more to challenge Democratic incumbents. Even if all of them won, Republicans would have at most 30 women in the House - about half the number Democrats now have.

Part of the issue is that the hard line stance of the party faithful alienates moderate women who lean Republican, but who also may support things like gay marriage and the right to choose. Dede Scozzafava found herself in the crosshairs of conservatives who felt that her views were too liberal to represent Republicans. Olympia Snowe has also found herself targeted because of her failure to defer to the rank and file. Still, political analysts believe that the only women that are considered acceptable by top officials are also completely in line with right wing ideology that many moderate women voters find them "repulsive:"

In the days after Scozzafava's departure, House GOP leaders took pains to emphasize the contributions of their female members, allowing Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and others to kick off a series of floor speeches against the Democrats' health care proposals.

But Foxx and the best-known female Republican in the House - Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann - are firmly ensconced in the party's right wing, and Foxx proved it with her opening salvo on health care: "I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country."

Bachmann, who trumpeted the "death panel" argument and has accused President Barack Obama of trying to turn the country into a socialist state, is a particularly big draw with conservatives, who flocked by the thousands to her rally at the U.S. Capitol Thursday.

Still, even if one manages to rise to national prominence, they are still subject to far more media scrutiny than their male counterparts in government.

And, considering how this dance has played out time and time again, it's clear that unless we make some major shifts on how prevalent sexism is in our media and politics, both parties are doomed to repeat this same destructive cycle.

Hillary And Sarah's Common Theme [The Daily Beast]
The GOP's Women Problem [Politico]

Earlier: Is White House Sports Culture Detrimental To Women's Advancement?