[ Women who ran for Congress avoided women’s issues in their
campaign ads] [https://portside.org/] 



 Shawn Parry-Giles, Aya Hussein Farhat, Matthew Salzano 
 January 4, 2019
The Conversation

	* [https://portside.org/node/19036/printable/print]

 _ Women who ran for Congress avoided women’s issues in their
campaign ads _ 

 Campaign photo of Elaine Luria for Congress, 


A record number of women were sworn into Congress on Jan. 3

The influx of women candidates helped turn the midterm election into
what many observers dubbed a “Year of the Woman

But despite a tide of voter sentiment favoring women, these winners
got to Congress or a statehouse not by defining themselves as
“women’s candidates,” but instead by sidestepping issues
typically associated with their gender, from equal pay to reproductive

We are experts on women and politics
and in a recent study we conducted
[http://www.comm.center.umd.edu/reports.html] at the University of
Maryland’s Rosenker Center for Political Communication & Civic
Leadership [http://www.comm.center.umd.edu/index.htm], we examined
2018 political ads to understand how woman defined their candidacies
and qualifications for office.

We found that, despite the momentum of the #MeToo movement, women were
careful in playing the “gender card.” They avoided what are often
construed as “women’s issues
that are associated with gender equality such as abortion, pay equity,
sexual violence and harassment.

Projecting power

We studied general election ads produced by women challengers running
for the U.S. Congress or for governor of their state. We used 52 ads
from 25 candidates – nine Republicans and 16 Democrats. Although
there were more Democratic women vying for office than Republicans, we
made sure to balance the ads by party (29 ads by Republicans and 23
ads by Democrats). All of them were produced by candidates in what we
defined as competitive races, meaning 10 points or less separated the
candidate and their opponent on Sept. 30, 2018.

A dominant theme that crossed both Democratic and Republican ads is
the candidate’s own power and achievements in careers that have
historically excluded women. These ads showcase these women’s
individual strengths that seemingly prepares them for the
rough-and-tumble world of U.S. politics.

In her “Ring” ad [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quH2kI6Sbis],
Democrat Sharice Davis [https://www.shariceforcongress.com/home], who
was running for a U.S. House seat in Kansas, featured her hitting a
punching bag – she used to be a mixed martial arts fighter. She
identified herself as a “fighter” who will “never back down.”

Democrat Elaine Luria [https://twitter.com/ElaineLuriaVA] ran for a
U.S. House seat in Virginia and chose to highlight her military career
in the Navy. In her “Sea Change
ad, she is shown piloting a warship. The ad emphasizes that she was
“deployed six times” during her military career.

Republican women similarly communicated their strength with words of
power: “Proven,” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU9abTKmDN0]
“Fight” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTou-Il24NE] and
“Fearless.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSV9WZW6yqY]

Republican Martha McSally
who ran in Arizona’s U.S. Senate race, identified herself as the
first woman to fly a fighter jet in active duty in her ad
“Deployed.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obHlECvtrEs]
Republican Young Kim [https://twitter.com/youngkimcd39?lang=en], who
ran for the U.S. House in California, defined herself as a
“self-made” business leader who promised to never “give up” in
an ad titled “My Community.”

One candidate in our study developed an ad exclusively focused on
women’s reproductive rights (Dr. Kim Schrier’s
“Door” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25DYMbnU94s] ad – U.S.
House candidate from Washington). The other ads, produced by Democrats
and Republicans, glossed over the gender inequities women continue to
face. Instead, they imply that gender equality
has already been achieved because the candidates have single-handedly
shattered gender barriers. As Merida L. Johns
[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3544145/] of the Monarch
Center for Women’s Leadership Development
[http://www.themonarchctr.com/] makes clear, just because individual
women are high achievers does not mean the structural barriers
inhibiting women’s advancement have been removed.

Republican women’s dilemma

Republican women, more than Democrats, had to tread carefully around
issues of women’s equality. After all, a majority of Republicans
sided with Justice Kavanaugh and President Trump after they were
charged with sexual misconduct

We saw this play out in the fact that more Republican women candidates
aligned themselves with powerful men more than the Democratic
candidates did. One reason they may have done this is to lessen the
perception of their candidacy as a threat to voters accustomed to male

For example, Republican Carol Miller, who ran for the U.S. House in
West Virginia, ran an ad featuring male veterans
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJyEPlESgJ4] attacking her Democratic
opponent Richard Ojeda
for challenging the country’s “greatness.” At the end of the ad,
she is flanked by two muscular men – one a coal miner and the other
a Marine.

Some explicitly ran on Donald Trump’s coattails. And Tennessee’s
U.S. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn
[https://twitter.com/votemarsha] featured an ad showing her
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBPKuLJXgvo] hugging the president
and boasting about his endorsement of her.

Other Republican candidates used gender stereotypes to demean their
opponents. For example, in her “Walk” ad
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEUVNBqqC4E], Elizabeth Heng
running for the U.S. House in California, challenged the masculinity
of her opponent, Representative Jim Costa [https://costa.house.gov/],
by depicting him walking the streets in red high heels as the voice
over mocked: “Costa’s walking in Nancy Pelosi’s shoes.”

The takeaway

These ads reveal that using their gender as an advantage
trying to promote women’s issues, or calling out sexist behavior are
still a challenge for women in politics. The ads in our study reflect
the cautionary words that Democratic pollster Celinda Lake
[https://www.barbaraleefoundation.org/research/modern-family/] offers
to women candidates: “Traditional gender roles remain powerful,
influencing what we perceive to be acceptable and appropriate behavior
for men and women.”

In 2018, as The Washington Post
reports, some candidates charged their opponents with “sexist”
behavior while others more likely used “surrogates” to issue such
accusations. Candidates stayed away from such controversial
accusations in the ads we studied.

In his published research, sociologist Robert D. Francis
[https://www.robertdfrancis.com/] writes that because “modern
presumes “discrimination against women has been overcome,” a sense
of “resentment” follows those who allege “sexism.” Rather than
tackle the inequalities that women confront in public and private,
many candidates in this study showed they could make it in a man’s
world – throwing punches, shooting guns
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHViPTnf3lQ], steering warships,
piloting planes, running corporations, and aligning themselves with
powerful men.

As these newly elected women step into their leadership role this
week, the question remains as to whether they will sidestep or tackle
the gender equity issues that will finally make the “Year of the
Woman” a relic of our past

_Jenna Bachman, Darrian Carroll, Lauren Hunter, Naette Lee, Hazel
Feigenblatt Rojas and Sarah Vick contributed to this story._[The

Shawn Parry-Giles
Professor of Communication, _University of Maryland
Aya Hussein Farhat
Ph.D. Student, _University of Maryland
Matthew Salzano
Graduate Student, _University of Maryland
and Skye de Saint Felix
Doctoral Student, _University of Maryland

This article is republished from The Conversation
[http://theconversation.com] under a Creative Commons license. Read
the original article

	* [https://portside.org/node/19036/printable/print]







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