The “Woman Card”: What Is It?

According to Donald Trump and others on the right like Rush Limbaugh, Hillary Clinton is playing the “woman card.” What does that really mean? Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times explains that the implications are that women, and in particular Hillary Clinton, have some kind of unearned advantage because they are women. Kristof challenges this assumption with the following facts:

  • There has never been a woman president of the United States.
  • Only one-fifth of senators, 20 out of 100, are women.
  • Women earn 92 cents to a male worker’s dollar.
  • A bare 19 percent of corporate board seats are held by women.
  • An assault on a woman happens every nine seconds.
  • Men and women judge women more harshly for the same job application, résumé, or essay when, in several research studies cited by Kristof, the names on the documents are switched from John to Jennifer.
  • In the same studies, salary recommendations for the job applicant with the masculine name were 14 percent higher than for the same applicant with a feminine name.
Kristof notes that these disadvantages for women reflect unconscious bias, which he defines as “a patriarchal attitude that is absorbed and transmitted by men and women alike—which is one reason women often aren’t much help to other women.” I talk about this same dynamic in my book, New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together, as an example of internalized negative stereotypes that result in women not supporting other women and being harder on each other in the workplace.

Why Do We Need More Women in Politics?

Jill Filipovic of the New York Times suggests that we need more women in elected office. Because of our life experiences as white women and women of color, many elected women:
  • Get more cosponsorship for legislation.
  • Bring more money home to their districts.
  • Focus on priorities such as the need for access to affordable health care, contraception, quality education and low-cost college tuition, living-wage reforms, and criminal justice reforms.
Kristof concludes that if the polls show Clinton leading Trump, it is not because she has a “woman card,” which is less than worthless. He notes that a “woman card” is “like a credit card that isn’t accepted anywhere but carries a $3,000 annual fee.” If Clinton wins the election, it will because of her “experience, policies, temperament and judgment.”   Image credit: Freeman-Woolpert]]>

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