Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Scanty Coverage

States that women are increasingly likely to run for office, but they have at least double the work on their hands. Former Representative Geraldine Ferraro, Representative Barbara Boxer and Illinois Lawyer Carol Moseley Braun are entering races this fall; Press' unbiased treatment is crucial; Not as likely to concentrate on a woman politician's platform.

Women Candidates

As the old-style world of politics starts to totter, aided by scandals and disenchantment with the political process, women are increasingly likely to run for high office. But they have at least double the work on their hands.

When former Representative Geraldine Ferraro, Representative Barbara Boxer of California, and Illinois lawyer Carol Moseley Braun enter races for the U.S. Senate this fall, they will compete not only for voter support but also for fair media coverage.

In any election, the press's unbiased treatment of a candidate's position is crucial to educating the electorate--and reminding them that qualified female politicians exist. But political reporting has been far from equitable, say political scientists Kim Fridkin Kahn and Edie N. Goldenberg, who examined news coverage of 26 Senate races in 1984 and 1986. Reporters from papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Tunes wrote almost nine paragraphs more each day about races with male candidates than races with female candidates.

Even then, they are likely to concentrate on a female's campaign resources and political viability rather than on her platform. The press covers a male's platform with greater depth. Further, articles about female candidates emphasize "female" issues even if a candidate stresses an entirely "male" agenda. "Female" issues include drug abuse, education, the environment, and health care; "male" issues revolve around foreign policy, defense spending, the economy, and farm issues.

When women politicians run, the press plays up close battles. Such races usually hurt women candidates because the media dwells on the female's lack of resources, campaign organization, and endorsements. During close races, reporters wrote twice as many articles about a female candidate's lack of resources than a male candidate's.

The upshot: voters may conclude that women are noncompetitive and not worthy candidates.

How can female politicians use the media to make an impact? "We need incumbent female politicians, like Sen. Barbara Mikulski from Maryland, to shape the issues for the press and help women in politics," says Kahn, an associate professor at Arizona State University. otherwise, Anita Hill's brave brush with Capitol Hill's male-dominated Senate will be all for nothing.