#WhoTalks | Why We Need Women to Talk Politics

screenshot from PBS NewsHour's 28 July 2016 "Watch Hillary Clinton's Full Speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention", via YouTube

screenshot from PBS NewsHour's 28 July 2016 "Watch Hillary Clinton's Full Speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention", via YouTube

It is abundantly clear that, in the United States, respect and authority are a gendered issue.

From men on twitter who demand that Hillary Clinton smile while she delivers her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention to the numerous established-enough-to-know-better newspapers and magazines that ran front page photos of only her husband to announce the historic nomination, it is abundantly clear that, in the United States, respect and authority are a gendered issue.

Despite women serving in positions of power throughout a myriad of industries, the message remains: a woman’s opinion does not hold the same weight as that of a man’s. We need look no further than the handling of this election cycle in mainstream media. GenderAvenger, in partnership with the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) and the Women’s Media Center, launched WhoTalks? in early 2016 to collect data and monitor the gender balance of pundits who appear on the highest-rated morning and evening cable news shows on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox to discuss the presidential election.

For the past two weeks, Who Talks? has paid special attention to the way women’s voices have been included, or not, in serious discussion and debate around the two major party conventions — the Republican National Convention (RNC) held from July 18–21 in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) held from July 25–28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The number of women brought on as experts or analysts on TV to discuss the RNC and DNC was seriously lacking.

Despite the number of women who delivered powerful speeches on stage, the number of women brought on as experts or analysts on TV to discuss them was seriously lacking. Coverage throughout the Republican National Convention across three major news channels (including morning shows and primetime evening coverage) showed that Fox News and MSNBC included only 26% women analysts while CNN included 35%. The following week’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention was only slightly better: FOX News included 27% women commentators, MSNBC included 32%, and CNN included 39%. Combined, the percentage of women commentators asked to cover the two most important public delineations of the political agenda that will affect the nation for the next four years peaked at 37% on CNN, while Fox News and MSNBC only brought in women analysts 27% and 29% of the time, respectively.

Politics are still considered men's matters.

So what does this tell us about the way women’s opinions are acknowledged in the public sphere? We can have a woman run for president, a First Lady deliver one of the most stunning speeches to ever grace a national stage, and a candidate’s daughter lauded for her powerful introduction of her father, but leave the nuance to the big boys. Every time someone brings up ‘the woman card’, make no mistake: they do not believe that a woman could feel compelled to vote for another woman because they share the same views on important issues. They are saying that a woman will vote for another woman because their shared gender is the only issue she recognizes. A woman with an opinion on economics, foreign policy, or national security does not compute. Those are men’s matters that we need not worry our pretty little heads over. No, sir. Not this time. Not anymore.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s 2016. Women make up more than half of the population of this country and will account for more than half the votes this fall. We have the same intellectual ardor and self-awareness to develop far-reaching and pointed commentary on the state of the world that we also, if you’ve not noticed, live in. Women’s voices deserve to be heard. Why are we still saying this?

Women’s
voices
deserve
to be
heard.

If that means you move over to make some room, then move. We have voices, and we know how to use them.