For decades in American politics, successful female candidates often belonged to political dynasties, following in the footsteps of a husband or father and relying on their famous last names to reassure voters. That has shifted in recent years: Few if any of the women who won new House seats in November came from powerful political families, and none of the six female presidential candidates do, either.
"There are very few problems where we make rules based on the possibility of false accusations. If we paid more attention to that in this society we wouldn’t have the death penalty. The bigger problem is not false accusations. The bigger problem is the harassment. I agree that everyone in a fair process has a right to be heard, whether accuser or accused. What I cannot accept is the notion that many people have that women cannot be trusted to tell the truth about these violations."
As it turns out, women are no more immune to the forces intensifying partisanship than men. Some of the positive qualities women are praised for bringing to public office — collegiality, collaboration, relentless work ethic — aren’t born of some sort of innate gendered goodness. Chalk it up to self-preservation.
Women don’t automatically ally with other women, as Senator Susan Collins’s vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court demonstrated. Sisterhood doesn’t override partisanship or deeply held moral views. Victims of sexual harassment didn’t all believe Christine Blasey Ford. Women don’t act as one. The question is why so many people are still surprised that they don’t, even after the election of 2016.
A small army of African-American women across the South are using networks originally forged in segregation to muster turnout for Democratic candidates in the November elections. The New York Times interviewed more than 50 black women during a recent voter mobilization bus tour across Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. Their stories offered echoes of the South’s past and glimpses of its future.
Motherhood can be a credential, but research also suggests that women have to work harder to persuade voters that they have expertise in realms like national security. A study conducted by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation during the 2016 election found voters had the deepest misgivings about mothers with young children, but not about men with young families. This newest wave of candidates seems undeterred by this thinking — and perhaps is poised to toss it out entirely. “Women are going with their gut,” said Barbara Lee, the foundation’s president. “They’re running as if these obstacles haven’t taken place in the past. It’s their sense of urgency about changing the status quo.”
If this is the Year of the Woman in politics, few places are a better showcase than Arizona, where a surge of female activists and candidates is reshaping policy debates and campaign conversations up and down the ballot. In a way, it’s only fitting: Arizona, long an emblem of conservatism, also has a history of shattering stereotypes about women in power. The state leads the nation in electing women as governor — two Democrats and two Republicans — and ties with Vermont for the highest proportion of women in legislatures at 40 percent.
Many women, those who grew up wealthy and those who did not, have long been steered away from the unapologetic drive for wealth. It’s bound up with the way girls are often schooled to place the needs of others above their own, to repress or deny outward signs of ambition. Even as women have pushed into once-male bastions in business, many still feel the sting of professional and personal backlash if they are perceived as too aggressive. “Girls as they are growing up are not socialized to feel that it’s O.K. for them to have ambition about creating wealth, not the way it is for little boys,” said Mariko Chang, the author of “Shortchanged,” a study of the wealth gap between men and women. “They’re encouraged to take on roles that let them take care of other people.”
A third of women and one in 10 men reported being physically followed, while 30 percent of women and 12 percent of men experienced genital flashing. Twenty-seven percent of women and 7 percent of men reported sexual assaults. The survey deliberately included street harassment as well as other forms of abuse, Ms. Kearl said. “Sexual harassment is a human rights violation — whether it takes place on the sidewalk of a street or in an executive board room — because it can cause emotional harm and limit and change harassed persons’ lives,” she said.