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’How Does Your Husband Let You Do This’ and Other Sexist Comments Women in Politics Face
I was running to be the Republican legislative district chair in my area some years ago and one of the delegates who would be voting said to me that he would vote for me, but he had a question: “How do you get your husband to let you do this?” I responded with “There is no ‘let.’” I don’t have to “ask permission” from my husband.
Many times, I’ve been asked “who is taking care of your children,” when actively involved in politics. None of my male colleagues or male opponents were ever asked that question. I even once heard another woman say they loved their children too much to be involved in politics. My response is that I love mine too much not to be.
I know many of my female friends, especially those active in politics, have heard similar comments, so when I read the five policy papers published by the Utah Women and Leadership Project, I was not surprised to see how pervasive these comments are. That doesn’t mean it’s not disheartening.
During May and June in 2020, the Utah Women and Leadership Project began surveying Utah women about their experiences with “messages that reinforce gender roles and stereotypes, demean women as a gender group, and sexually objectify women.” Hundreds of women responded, leaving 1,750 examples of sexist comments that had been made to them. One respondent left a comment at the end of the survey that she could have added hundreds more examples. Many of the comments that were shared were “much more explicit and vulgar” than those shared in the series of five reports.
Overall, most of the sexist comments were made by men (84.6%), in the workplace (58.2%), by someone who had a position of authority or influence over the person. The goal in publishing these reports, say the authors, is to educate people on the numerous ways that “language and related behaviors can demean and disempower women,” and give women tools for confronting such behavior.
The survey also asked respondents how they reacted when hearing these comments. There were five general reactions. One was to do or say nothing. A second was to have a direct response to the comments. A third was to have an emotional response, including feeling hurt, disappointed or angry. A fourth was to react indirectly by laughing it off or changing the subject and the fifth was the internal dialogue respondents had with themselves afterward.
SC Women In Leadership (SCWIL) is a multi-partisan non-profit organization that promotes democracy by encouraging women to become informed about public issues and active in the public debate. WIL helps all those who express interest to find resources for information on those issues. WIL does not endorse particular views, legislation, or candidates for public office.