Women Politicians in the U.S. Media


WomenPoliticians in the U.S. Media


PHI208 Ethics and Moral Reasoning

Dr. Susan Smith

March7, 2016

WomenPoliticians in the U.S. Media

Onemajor question that needs answers is whether the way women arepresented in media is harmful or advantageous to their role inpolitics? Research has indicated that the coverage that womenpoliticians are given by the American is extremely low and biasedcompared to the attention and the coverage than men receive. Centerfor American Women and Politics (2016), asserts that there has beenan increase in the level of political activity by women, but thenumber of women in politics remains the same. For instance, thenumber of women in the 114thcongress was only 20 compared to the same number in 2012. Researchhas indicated that the difference is caused by the lack of coverageby the American media. Males are said to receive enormous coverage bythe media in American hence their success and progress in politics.When the media in America is covering women politicians, it tends toconcentrate on the feminist part of the women politicians rather thanthe issues the women are seeking to address or put across. This iscontrary to the coverage that male politicians are given where themedia covers the issues and the agendas that men are putting across(Falk, 2008). When looking at this issue from the perspective of autilitarian, it is essential to state that the media in America isdoing a disservice to the electorate by failing to offer a fair andbalanced presentation between the male and the female politicians. Inother words, the failure by the media to offer equal representationand coverage does not lead to the good of many people. It is,however, essential to state that women should not expect to havespecial or differential treatment in order for them to succeed inpolitics and prove their worthiness. Therefore, based on theutilitarian principle, it can be argued that the actions that theAmerican media is engaged in contributes to the disadvantagedpolitical position that women are in currently.


Utilitarianismis an ethical theory which holds that actions are only morally rightif they promote the good for most people. On the contrary, the ethicsof this theory assert that an action can be viewed as being wrong ifit does not promote goodness or happiness for numerous people (Mill,2008).Actions that lead to happiness and pleasure are described as beingmoral and good while the actions that promote displeasure and painare considered as being wrong. This theory relies on the quality andquantity of pleasure that emanates from an action for it to befunctional. The quality and quantity of pleasure or happiness isreferred to as the utility which is obtained after deducting the painand displeasure caused by an action (Mill,2008). According to this theory, it is essential for an action to producemaximum utility which will benefit the greatest number of people.

Researchershave provided various reasons as to why women are not elected forpolitical reasons when they run for political positions. It is arguedthat women are engaged in family duties and therefore it is not fitto elect them for political positions (Vos,2013).It is also argued that women are not tough for political positionsand they lack education. However, it is essential to note thatmajority of the voters lack the willingness and the desire to votefor women. This paper seeks to evaluate whether the media shouldtreat women differently in order to enhance utility of gender parityin politics. This question boils down the people who would benefitfrom such an action. If the many people will receive the greatestgood and pleasure, the theory would propose such an action. However,if such an action would not lead to happiness and pleasure for themany people, utilitarian theory would be opposed to it. According tothe principles of this theory, women should not be treateddifferently by the media at the disadvantage of the men. This impliesthat this action will be beneficial to the voters, male and femalepoliticians. According to the utilitarian theory, this would be thebest action and the right action to do as it leads to pleasure formost people.


Whenthere is bias in terms of how women are presented by the media, thevoter fails to get the true picture of woman candidate. It isessential to note that numerous voters rely on the media to get aclear picture of the various candidates for political positions.Media bias against women must and should be eradicated in order toenable voters to make informed decisions (Falk,2008).Currently, the media presents gender stereotypes and the abilitiesthat women have are hidden from the voter. The print, television,cable and radio are media platforms which can change the perceptionthat the people have towards certain candidates. Women candidates innational elections are viewed on the basis of their sex rather thanon the basis of their leadership abilities and their positions onissues. This was the case with GeraldineFerraro in 1984 when she was nominated as the presidential runningmate.

Itis essential to note that the poor coverage and the stereotypeweakens and affects negatively the ability of women to succeed inpolitics in America. This is an indication that the bias in the mediaundermines or interferes with the greater good of the voters and thepopulace who cannot make informed decisions. Men, on the contrary,are offered immense media attention and coverage and are presented ashaving absolute abilities to lead the people as political leaders(Falk, 2008). This difference in media coverage between men and womenbegs the question of whether media representation of male and femalesshould be afforded at the same magnitude. The principles that guidethe ethical theory or utilitarianism can be used to find answers tothis question.

Itis evident that the biased treatment and coverage that men receivecan be detrimental to the voters who cannot get the true picture ofthe female leaders they prefer. Historically, women have been treateddifferently from men in political arenas. The media tries to find anytraces of incompetency in women in order to bring them down andensure they do not succeed. According to the PewResearch Center (2015), the population believes that women fail tosucceed politics since they are held to extremely high standardscompared to their male counterparts. Additionally, while looking atthe reasons why women are deeply scrutinized by the media, it is easyto spot that there are extremely few women in politics compared tothe men. This implies that the media has an easy time scrutinizingand assessing the abilities that such women leaders have with regardsto the political offices that they are running for. On the contrary,there are numerous men running for political offices and it istherefore extremely expensive for the media houses in terms ofresources and time to scrutinize all the men. This leaves men at anadvantage hence giving them a chance to progress and succeed inpolitics. When the utilitarian theory is applied, it is clear thatthe media should not have any different treatment of the womendifferent from the men (Mill,2008).This would ensure that numerous women hold political offices to thebenefit of many people. In other words, balanced representation ofboth male and women politicians by the media would ensure that thereis greater good for the most people.

Theapplication of utilitarianism is this case would be totally theopposite of deontology ethics which asserts that the rightness or thewrongness of an action depends on the rules and no the consequences(Singer,2003).In this regard, deontology ethics would not consider the effects thatthe biased presentation of female politicians has on the voters. Thiswould imply that the theory would only consider whether the Americanmedia is adhering to the rules when presenting the women politicians.This approach of deontology would not even look at the moral statusof the media houses and therefore it would completely agree with theactions of the media house as long as it does not violate any lawwith regards to covering female politicians.


Thereasons being given by female politicians that their failure is as aresult of the biased and poor coverage by the media may bemisleading. The male politicians are equally subjected to scrutinyjust like their female counterparts. It is essential to state thatthe women who are willing to become national political leaders shouldbe ready and prepared to be scrutinized. Whereas women argue thatthey are judged on the basis of their family responsibilities, it isessential to note that men are also judged on the same basis althoughat a smaller scale. A closer look at the media coverage of malepoliticians will indicate that they are also scrutinized and judgedbut they weather the storms and come out victorious (Harris,2014).Women who are running for national political offices should also bein a position to weather the storms of judgment and controversy.Women running for presidential seats should be prepared to bedominant and being judged should be their least concern. Women musttherefore not expect to be pampered by the media in order for them tobe successful. Women must be aggressive and brave if they wish tobecome political leaders.

Justas it is possible to find male politicians who are soft and unable todeal with the media scrutiny, it is also the same case with findingfemale politicians who are tough and can deal with the mediascrutiny. These women have the ability to perform their politicalduties as men would or even better than men (Harris,2014).The differential treatment by the media can be misleading to thepublic and it would only lead to the election of men into politicaloffices. More often than not, the male politicians who are electedare not any better than some female politicians.

Thereis a contentious convention that women should withstand the pressurethey get from the scrutiny by media in America just as men withstandthe scrutiny. The ability by a woman politician to withstand thescrutiny from the media houses is a clear indication of her abilityand strength to rule, as well as handle various matters as a leader.Women leaders must be brave since at the end the day, their opinionsabout various national matters is what matters.


Asit has been discussed in the entire paper, the misrepresentation offemale politicians by the media hurts the political aspirations offemale politicians. It is has been found that the women in nationalpolitics are subjected t undue scrutiny by the media when they seekleadership positions. The misrepresentation of the female politiciansby the media misleads the voters who are duped into voting in malepoliticians who lack the capacity and the ability to lead (Everbach,2014).According to the utilitarian theory, both male and female politiciansshould be accorded equal representation and coverage by the media.This would ensure that the voters make informed decisions.Additionally, equal presentation would ensure that the male andfemale politicians are satisfied. According to the ethics ofutilitarian theory, this would be an action that would lead topleasure for most people (Mill,2008).Utilitarianism provides that women have the ability and potential tocompete and weather the stormy world of politics just as their mencounterparts. An objection to this assertion is that women aretreated the same as men. Men are also judged on basis of theirresponsibilities to their families and therefore women should notcomplain when they are judged on the basis of their responsibilitiesto their families. Women who accept the scrutiny by the media showgreat responsibility and the ability to lead.


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