Feminism by the numbers

Posted on October 1, 2011

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I came across this video in my travels which does very well at ascribing the pains of female sexuality in media and the negative impact that has on society. I do have some problems with one particular piece though. Women comprise 51% of the US population, true enough; women also comprise 17% of congress, also roughly true. But are these numbers really the best way to show gender bias in society and politics in particular? Let me show you some far more potent figures, in the 2010 midterm elections;

  • The number of elected Senators are 100 as always, of these 100 83 are male and 17 are female, so the 17% figure from the video is bang on.
  • In the Senate races there were 110 male candidates compared to 20 female candidates, that’s 84.5% and 15.5% respectively. So we’re still more or less on target there.
  • The House of Representatives contains 435 voting members (so excluding the likes of Guam), after the midterm these were comprised of 362 men and 73 women, that’s 83.2% and 16.8% respectively. So again the number from the video seems to be doing a good job of showing the inequality of the political system.

But what does this actually show, are women simply not running or are they running and losing? Well;

  • The number of male candidates in House elections: 1146
  • The number of women running in House elections:  184
  • That is 86.2% and 13.8% respectively

So in the senate the numbers are very low but they are roughly in line with the number of women who are elected, just like the men, when they do run they seem to win in proportion with the number of candidates. However these women already have political experience, so the real issue lies in women who are newly entering the field. This points to the issue lying outside of the electorate and in the realm of culture, that is, women are discouraged from running for political office for some reason.

So, mull it over and get back to me.

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Posted in: Equality, Politics