Ovaries in Office

Media Bias Towards Female Politicians

These images have been compiled from various television and print news media to show the clearly biased treatment of female politicians in political commentary and reporting. Historically, female politicians have received unequal coverage that heavily skews away from their politics and issues and towards their looks and appearance. Female politicians struggle to overcome the barriers in place and be taken seriously or trusted. Mainstream news media demonstrates a clearly biased attitude toward female politicians, not only in the US, but globally. ”Despite major shifts in the way that society views a woman’s role in the public sphere, the media continues to treat female politicians and candidates in a traditional gender role frames.” (Ryan, 2011)


Female politicians often fall victim to many of the same stereotypes that affect women in the professional world. A video called “The Pornification of Female Politicians” states that, “Because women candidates perpetually combat the double bind between femininity and competence, media frames that cast them as sex objects undermine their credibility as leaders in ways that do not undercut male candidates.” These stereotypes negatively affect the way female politicians are viewed by the public by subverting their competence and ability to do the job required of a public servant or political leader. The Argentinian political analysis magazine that ran an issue featuring Cristina Fernández used the stereotype of women as hyper-emotional to suggest that her emotional mood was affecting her political activity. This type of stereotyping is used by news media around the world to dismiss women as politicians to be taken less seriously by undermining their ability to act and think logically under pressure. Other newspaper covers feature politicians like Hillary Clinton, fists raised with headlines such as “NO WONDER BILL’S AFRAID” “Hillary explodes with rage at Benghazi hearing”. The suggestion that a female politician “explodes with rage” during a hearing makes it clear to the readers that this woman was out of control and angry. The title for this cover story, “Feisty Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first back at Congress in Benghazi hearing”.  Uses of terms and phrases like “explodes with rage” and “feisty” show that people consider her emotional as a female. There was no mention of Bill Clinton in the article (we’re pretty sure he wasn’t even there) until the end when listing her career history. “The hearings were an inauspicious exit for Clinton, the one time New York senator, first lady to hubby Bill Clinton, and 2008 presidential candidate, who is stepping down as the head of Foggy Bottom after four years.” (New York Post, 2013) The image of Bill seems to be for comedic effect, but his image is not at all relevant.



Wives and families of male politicians are often criticized, scrutinized, and verbally brutalized by news publications. This image of a Fox News segment showed a title referring to Michelle Obama as “Obama’s Baby MTHREEama”. While the network claimed it was an error in judgment by one producer, the attitude expressed by the producer in airing the headline is not an uncommon one, especially among the conservative news crowd.





Image: Independent
In this image an edition of Britain’s Daily Mail Newspaper is displayed with others. The cover is about Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and their meeting to discuss what Britain’s leaving the European Union will mean for Scotland’s connection to the U.K. However the newspaper decided that the most important part of this meeting was, which of these political leaders has the most attractive legs? The newspaper endured a significant backlash from this decision. There are several articles about the outrage that occurred after this story was published. There are many examples in news media where stories not only refer to a female politicians’ physical appearance but may (as in this case) focus on it completely. Even though there is negative feedback in many of these instances, the media continues to push these representations. It seems that it some cases the articles are titled in an a way that suggests objectification, even if the article is focused on other aspects of the politician, to catch the reader’s’ interest.


Alaska Magazine

In July 2007 Hillary Clinton spoke to Congress about the high costs of higher education. According to news outlets everywhere, her most important statement was not made by her words but by her blouse. There are several articles and discussions trying to decide if her slight v-neck was appropriate dress for Congress. “After all, it wasn’t until the early ’90s that women were even allowed to wear pants on the Senate floor.” (Givhan)


The Pornification of Female Politicians


The Pornification of Female Politicians

“Hillary Clinton Nutcracker” IE women versus men in the gender binary

The Pornification of Female Politicians



Givhan, R. (2007, July 20). Hillary Clinton’s Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/19/AR2007071902668.html?noredirect=on

The Media’s War on Women: Gendered Coverage of Female Candidates: https://www.xavier.edu/xjop/documents/XJOPVol4No1Ryan.pdf

The Pornification of Female Politicians (video)


Dunaway, Johanna, Regina G. Lawrence, Melody Rose, and Chris Weber. 2013. “Traits versus Issues: News Coverage of Female Candidates for Senatorial and Gubernatorial Office.” Political Research Quarterly 66: 715-726.



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