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Jul 28 2017
by Hannah Hornbuckle

What the Media's Coverage of the 'Skinny Repeal' Means for Young Women in Politics

By Hannah Hornbuckle - Jul 28 2017
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Early Friday morning, the senate voted to defeat the “skinny repeal” bill, 49-51. This bill would have left an estimated 15 million more Americans without health insurance. It was defeated thanks to three Republican Senators: John Mccain from Arizana, Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska. However, when I checked up on news websites and social media a few hours after the senate vote, most of the stories focused on Senator McCain.

Although McCain’s vote was certainly a surprise, as he earlier refused to disclose how he would vote on the bill and he voted to allow debates on the bill to continue only days earlier, Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski fought against the repeal from the beginning, despite facing backlash and criticism. These two women did not take their time to weigh their political options, they did not wait for a dramatic moment to make a decision, they did not stay silent on their positions before casting a vote; instead, they stuck by their morals and fought for their message from the very beginning. McCain cast a significant vote, sure, but to claim that he singlehandedly crushed the health care repeal is to overshadow the heavy-lifting done by two women who made the 49-51 outcome possible.

Soon, people began to draw parallels between this selective reporting and the lack of recognition that women receive in most workplaces. Several tweets about Collins and Murkowski went viral, and Vox, The Washington Post, and several other news organizations soon published stories crediting Collins and Murkowski for their work.

These sentiments clearly resonate with many women, especially those wanting to get involved in politics. People are more likely to expect that women will be impacted politically by family life than men, women politicians are asked more questions about family life than men, women are less likely to be recruited for politics than men, and women in politics face sexist media coverage and threats of violence. The media’s erasure of the work of Murkowski and Collins serves as one more example of how frustrating their journey ahead may be.

Though sexism in any work environment is detrimental, the last thing that we need is for hard-working young women to be deterred from their goals because of it. More than ever, we need young women to join the conversation and pursue political office. Organizations such as EMILY’s List and She Should Run are helping to make this possible, but the gap between women and men in politics is narrowing extremely slowly; the estimated year that equality in congress will be achieved is 2121.

Although I am grateful for the votes that Murkowski, Collins, McCain, and 48 Democratic senators cast, the real heroes of this story are the countless peaceful protesters who pleaded for senators to stand by them, every citizen who called their senators in an attempt to sway them and each person whose life was up for national debate and discussion throughout these previous months. These are the people who women in politics will always be able to look up to. Our country may not yet be at a point where young women pursuing politics can expect fair media coverage and adequate acknowledgement, but women can still make a difference for their community and, like each of these protesters and concerned citizens, help to keep the spirit of democracy alive. Studies show that the real hindrance to women is being encouraged and enabled to run for office in the first place; after that, women are about as likely as men to be elected to political positions. So, to any young women feeling discouraged by the media’s unjust coverage of this historic vote: go out there, push forward and make them pay attention next time. Full speed ahead.

Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Hannah Hornbuckle - Barnard College

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