If you have "no place to go," come here!

Study: Sexist insults hurt female politicians

When a female politician is treated or attacked in a sexist manner, her favorability rating declines, often by quite a bit, depending on the type of sexism and sex based insult. And using sexist attacks or language undercut her standing more than attacking her stands on issues.

But, when a woman stands firm and takes a stand aganst the sexism, her favorability tends to remain the same and her attacker's standing may decline. It appears advice to Hillary Clinton to not respond to sexist attacks was not the right way to go. And still she won the vote count.

The study used hypothetical candidates, a male and a female (see link for methodology). It is possible that someone such as Hillary Clinton had built up enough strong identification by the public that the sexist language did not have quite the impact it would have for an unknown or relatively unknown female candidate.

Among the findings:

• The female candidate lost twice as much support when even the mild sexist language was added to the attack. Support for her initially measured at 43% fell to 33% after the policy-based attacks but to 21% after the sexist taunts. The drop was significant among both men and women, those under 50 and over 50, and those with college educations and without.

• The sexist language undermined favorable perceptions of the female candidate, leading voters to view her as less empathetic, trustworthy and effective.

• Responding directly helped the women candidates' regain support. The rebound occurred both after a mild response — the female candidate calling the discussion "inappropriate" and "meritless" and turning back to issues — and after a more direct counterattack that decried "sexist, divisive rhetoric" as damaging to "our political debate and our democracy."

Now, did Harry Reid's reference to NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as "the hottest member" of the Senate do damage to her standing? (What were you thinking, Harry??)

Hat tip to RalphB, linking to this at this at The Confluence in a thread under post about Susie Madrak and her interaction with Axelrod.

No votes yet


Submitted by libbyliberal on

A woman commentator said something "mean girl" about a famous entertainer the other night on a soft news broadcast. It was so creepy. Really made the commentator seem small and petty with female misogyny.

Chris Matthews certainly had his impact re Hillary. Punished with the nickname "tweety", wasn't that it?

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

There is a new book coming out about the primary coming out soon, called "Big Girls Don't Cry" a look at the sexist treatment of Clinton, primarily, but also M. Obama and Palin. It also chronicles the author's evolving support for Clinton, that mirrors the journey of many of us here, I'm sure.

I'm glad that the book is being published, and I hope it gets lots of play. I hope it will help prevent that shameful episode from being disappeared from history.

I saw this yesterday at Echidne's, and was really struck by the fact that responding to it, and pointing it out as the sexist crap it is, is really effective. And I too made the same leap to Clinton's refusal to do that.

It's understandable why she would be afraid to do that, cuz if she had the media would have eviscerated her. But I think it should have been blatantly apparent to her that HER voters weren't listening to the media, and that leaving herself open to that type of frenzy would only have helped her.

Another example of how her continued devotion to a broken system, hampers her ability to truly succeed, an observation I'm sure we'd be making even if she were elected.