“Name It, Change It” Calls Out Rampant Campaign Sexism

The large number of women campaigning for election in the upcoming mid-term elections has commanded the media’s attention for better or for worse. With the increased coverage of women candidates, there are more examples of intentional and unintentional sexism in reporting and even in the way their own colleagues address them. (Uh, hello Harry Reid.)

In an effort to raise awareness of and combat sexist media coverage, the Women’s Campaign Forum (WCF) and the Women’s Media Center (WMC) have joined forces for the Name It, Change It campaign. The goal is to:

“erase the pervasiveness of sexism against all women candidates — irrespective of political party or level of office — across all media platforms in order to position women to achieve equality in public office.”

WCF’s president, Siobhan “Sam” Bennett is all too familiar with the way sexist coverage affects women running for office. As a congressional candidate in Pennsylvania’s 15th district in 2008, she experienced vicious attacks in the media and belittling comments from her male colleagues. She recounts an incident in which she was in the midst of delivering her first stump speech to a room full of men and the chairman interrupted her with this:

“Sam, I want to ask a question all the men in this room have been dying to ask you: Just what are your measurements?”

Needless to say, that was the beginning of attacks on her which included sexually explicit insults about her oral sex skills and the legitimacy of her genitalia. Bennett cites this example:

A known anti-woman blogger posted this comment on the blog Lehigh Valley Ramblings: “Sammy Bennett is phony political w**** who gives good h**d and makes cheap, blatant political opportunists look like Mother F****** Teresa. Even her p**** is made of plastic.” In addition, her local paper, the Morning Call, printed the quote on their front page. It ran day after day, with a large color photo of Bennett right next to it.

You can’t make this stuff up. Bennett used this experience as a catalyst for this campaign to call out sexist media coverage. While the WCF strongly supports women candidates who advocate for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, the Name It, Change It campaign is denouncing sexist coverage of all candidates, even the Tea Partiers like Christine O’Donnell who is adamantly anti-choice. Even if we disagree (strongly) on issues that affect women’s sexual and reproductive health, we as a community cannot condone sexist coverage. Stick to the issues, there’s plenty of fodder there!

When you look at the statistics that show women are 50 percent less likely to seriously consider running for office and 33 percent are less likely to view themselves as qualified, we can assume women are receiving context clues that they are not viable political candidates. The media is not entirely responsible for this as larger societal issues can undermine women’s worth, but it is a deterrent from even stepping into the race knowing that you’re going to be publicly attacked for being a woman, aside from your ideologies and platform. It’s no wonder that out of the 13,000 members of Congress in U.S. history, only 2 percent have been women.

So what can we do? On the “Name It, Change It” site, you can contact the WCF when you see or hear sexist coverage on TV, radio, online, anywhere, and they will call attention to it via their networks. You also can watch their recent press conference online for more details about the campaign. There’s strength in numbers and this is an opportunity for our community to stand up against sexism in the media, and to pave the way for lady candidates of the future.

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  • womens-voices

    As the fall election season goes on, we at Women’s Voices for change will also be reporting on media sexism in the election season. We’re pleased to be joining the Name It, Change It, campaign (the WFC and the WMC) in tageting the sexism that often blocks women from running for office. 

    In a recent post, we assembled a montage of sexism in TV coverage. 

  • reproductivefreedomfighter

    Thanks for that link.  It made me so angry I swore loudly at my computer.  How can people, even women, be OK with this?  It’s disgusting.  I feel like I need a shower. 

  • rebellious-grrl

    Sometimes it seams like sexism in the media in is so rampant that we just become desensitized to it. Thanks for the reawakening to this important issue.

    For example, last week on TYT (The Young Turks) two male commentators (left-wing) discussed who they would rather have sex with Michele Bachmann or Christine O’Donnell. I usually like listening to TYT but this really pissed me off.

  • rebellious-grrl

    Wow, great montage! Everyone should watch this and get informed.

  • womens-voices

    It really is something that is becoming rampant, also highlighted by the recent out of proportion media buzz about Sen. Gillibrand after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid named her “the Senate’s hottest member.” We’ve called this out as well, and this sort of campaign sexism needs to continue to be called out. 

  • carolyninthecity

    I actually got a little choked up when watching that montage. It’s almost as though these particular media personalities think the mere idea that a woman wants to be a politician or be good at it, is a joke in itself. 

    The bit about how Hilary Clinton is only a senator because Bill fooled around and the American public feels sorry for her especially pissed me off. Hilary’s voice reminds men of their nagging wives and that’s why she couldn’t be president??? Jesus. It actually breaks my heart to hear these things. 


    Love the idea of name it, change it!! I’m going to post this link on my facebook/twitter and get the word out!!