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The Year of Women Losing Elections

November 5, 2010

While 2010 may have been “The Year of the Woman,” it was certainly not the year that many women were elected to Congress.  Once the final elections are tallied, the number of female representatives is projected to decrease for the first time since 1979.  Considering that women make up only 17% of Congress, this loss is disconcerting, if not downright alarming. It’s true that some female Republican candidates—namely Susana Martinez and Nikki Haley—made waves after winning gubernatorial elections in New Mexico and South Carolina, respectively.  It’s also true that a record number of female candidates ran in the primaries for House and Senate races in 2010. So what’s stopping women from winning Congressional races? Research provides one answer: sexist media coverage of female candidates greatly impacts voter confidence in these candidates. Unfortunately, we know too well just how sexist media coverage this year turned out to be.  It’s important to remember that elections do not exist in a bubble, but are always affected by the prominent culture.  We need to start changing the sexist discourses that pass as acceptable in the media, so that women who run for election have an equal chance to represent their views on the national level.

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