Another View: Judge women candidates on their qualifications

Attorney General Kamala Harris takes the oath of attorney general in the courtyard at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento in January.
Attorney General Kamala Harris takes the oath of attorney general in the courtyard at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento in January. jvillegas@sacbee.com

I applaud The Sacramento Bee for encouraging more candidates to run for office in order to ensure more robust debate focused on the issues of the day. But then, why does The Bee not heed its own advice by covering candidates in a more substantive way?

Instead, a column by Dan Morain, The Bee’s editorial page editor (“Glitzy Harris lacks on issues”; Forum, Jan. 18) was full of belittling and patronizing language describing Attorney General Kamala Harris. In doing so, the column irresponsibly perpetuates the dominant paradigm of gender inequality that is all too pervasive in American politics.

Had the gender roles been reversed and a male candidate been first to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, I do not believe Morain would have felt compelled to point out his prowess in the kitchen or make mention of his preferred wardrobe of choice for working out.

I highly doubt that The Bee would ever describe a male candidate for the U.S. Senate as “glittery,” nor run a headline about a prominent male candidate describing his “sizzle.” Both are terms that were used to describe Harris.

The issue here is not Harris, nor is it about the Senate race. Rather, it is about fairness, equity and what we as a society are willing to accept, now and for generations to come. When will we be able to tell our daughters that they can pursue a political career without fear of gender bias and personal attacks based on physical appearance?

I am often asked about the issue of women in politics. The questions always follow a familiar theme: Why are so few women in elected office? Why am I the only woman on the Sacramento City Council? Why are so few women in Congress? Why are only 10 percent of our nation’s governors and fewer than 20 percent of our mayors women?

The reason there are so few women elected officials is an easy answer. Few women run for office. It isn’t the electorate’s fault. They rarely have an opportunity to address the issue.

So the real question is, why don’t more women run for office?

Perhaps more women would run for office if the debate focused on their experience, qualifications, ideas and their positions on policy issues – as opposed to their glitter or sizzle.

California would be much better off if The Bee took up the issue of gender inequality in American politics as opposed to feeding into the dysfunction. I, for one, would welcome the debate.

Angelique Ashby is the mayor pro tem of the city of Sacramento.