Women running for political office are pushing boundaries and allowing who they are to dominate the campaign trail. Instead of running along with the norm, these women are pushing individuality and self-expression within their campaigns.
With a record-breaking number of women running for office in 2018, it’s no surprise that many are choosing to run their campaigns a bit differently – starting with not striving for perfection. Not only is this memorable for voters, it’s also much more relatable to women across the country. Within their campaigns, women are making choices such as exposing their tattoos and sharing intimate stories about their lives.
So what are the potential reasons for this surge in openness?
Motions to bring visibility to issues that are rarely discussed in a public setting, such as the #MeToo movement, have undoubtedly played a part in women candidates becoming more open with their campaigns.
Additionally, an increase in debates over women’s issues, such as breastfeeding, have inspired women (especially women in positions of power) to take a more public stand. Now that there is a certain degree of comfort in sharing personal stories surrounding these issues, women running for office are able to connect these stories to what they stand for politically.
For example, Kelda Roys, who is hopeful to be Wisconsin’s next governor, released an ad that featured her breastfeeding her infant. These type of ads not only provide a more personal look into a candidate’s life, but they also send a message to voters that is often forgotten about: these women are human, just like every other American citizen.
Women have always been held to a higher standard when it comes to campaign trails. A list of obstacles when running for office, published by the Barbara Lee Foundation, includes factors such as confidence perceptions of qualification. However, one of the more jarring moments of the list states, “voters have to consider a woman candidate both qualified and likeable before voting for her, but are willing to support a male candidate they do not like but who they think is qualified.”
With likeability playing such an important role within the minds of voters, even if subconscious, women running for political positions have no choice but to present themselves as someone voters can relate to and trust. Historically, women who do not share information about their personal lives do not earn the trust of voters. The public generally makes assumptions about a woman candidate’s personal lives instead of accepting it as what it is: personal and private.
These factors result in the need for women to push campaigns that present themselves as individuals who are human and imperfect. While there is an ongoing debate over whether or not this tactic works, one thing is for certain: the political playing field for women has never been more full of opportunities to express themselves and truly reveal who they are as individuals.
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