TIME'S UP 2020

Time’s Up on Sexism in Politics

Changing Culture, Equity, Power, TIME'S UP 2020, We Have Her Back


TIME’S UP Now to Call Out Bias Against Women Candidates – Including the Nominee for Vice President

We are about to witness history: For only the third time in the 231-year history of the presidency, a woman will be nominated as the vice-presidential candidate for a major party. This candidate will join a record number of women running for political office, across parties, and up and down the ballot.

Even before we celebrate this historic milestone, political reporters, surrogates, and opinion makers are already falling prey to sexist and racist stereotypes and attacks, from focusing heavily on women candidates’ appearances to criticizing their career ambitions. These are the exact kinds of attacks that have derailed women’s pursuit of political office in the past.

That’s why TIME’S UP Now is building a non-partisan, rapid response movement to defend the vice-presidential nominee and other women candidates across parties from sexist attacks and hold those who perpetuate these sexist and racist tropes accountable. Whenever this subtle, and not so subtle, bias creeps into public discourse, we will fight back and shine a light on it before it takes hold. We will share this information widely with allies as part of an unprecedented effort to shift the narrative about women running for office, once and for all.

“When our politics focus on a woman’s likeability or ambition instead of her experience and expertise, we all lose out,” said Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP Now. “We will not allow these attacks, which have stamped out the political ambitions of countless qualified women and kept others from pursuing office in the first place, to go unanswered.” 

Below, we offer just a few examples of recent sexist and racist bias toward women in (or running for) public office.

Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams has been called “desperate” and “overly ambitious” while lacking the qualifications needed to be vice president. She was also the target of racist robocalls during her campaign for governor of Georgia.

CNN: Stacey Abrams doesn’t care what you think of her political ambition. “She challenged the gendered norms that have long plagued women’s (especially black women’s) political ambitions — the notion that they can seek power as long as they don’t exhibit an earnest desire for it.” [April 16, 2020]

Karen Bass

Rep. Karen Bass is reportedly on Joe Biden’s short list of vice presidential candidates because of her “low key manner” and perceived likeability — “sending the message that women who are sweet, cheery, and nonconfrontational will be rewarded.”

The Atlantic: Why Joe Biden Has His Eye on Karen Bass. “Bass has a low-key manner in place of Harris’s searing speeches, and pointy glasses in place of Demings’s dress blues, but she was the one House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put in charge when it came to actually writing the police-reform bill.” [July 13, 2020]

Liz Cheney

Rep. Liz Cheney has been publicly reprimanded by President Trump and his allies after she questioned his reluctance to wear a mask and some of his foreign policy positions. The message is clear: a woman needs to be punished for stepping out of line.

Fox News: Donald Trump Jr. pans Liz Cheney amid GOP criticism: ‘We don’t need another’ Mitt Romney. “Multiple former and current female House members told Fox some of the attacks on Cheney stemmed from sexism from male members.” [July 21, 2020]

Tammy Duckworth

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a purple heart recipient who lost both her legs in Iraq, was recently called “a deeply silly and unimpressive person.” She has also been praised for balancing the responsibilities of work and family.

The New York Times: Why Biden Won’t Find His Biden. “She juggles daily the responsibilities of motherhood with those of her political career.” [August 3, 2020]

Kamala Harris

Sen. Kamala Harris has been dogged with sexist and racist accusations of inauthenticity, as well as the persistent charge that she is too ambitious. Still others have criticized her for not being black enough.

Politico: Biden’s VP shortlist comes up short. “…Biden is said to want someone who will not prioritize their own political ambitions.” [July 27, 2020]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

After Rep. Ted Yoho levied vulgar, sexist language against her on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly condemned the abuse faced by women in Congress in a viral speech on the House Floor. From digs at her appearance to insults about her intelligence and qualifications for the position, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has endured sexist treatment throughout her political career.

Vogue: Watch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Expertly Explain Sexism to The World. “‘This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural,’ said Ocasio-Cortez, wearing a bright red blazer. She continued by calling it a culture ‘of accepting a violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that.’” [July 24, 2020]

Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been described by critics as “too ambitious, too needy, too much.” She has also weathered criticism that she is too unlikeable and too angry to become president.

Washington Post: Is Elizabeth Warren ‘angry’ and antagonistic? Or are rivals dabbling in gendered criticism? “Buttigieg laid the groundwork by criticizing Warren’s ‘my way or the highway approach’ and suggesting recently that she is ‘so absorbed in the fighting that it is as though fighting were the purpose.’ Biden, launching a range of new attacks on Warren, said this week that she reflects ‘an angry unyielding viewpoint that has crept into our politics.’”  [November 16, 2019]


TIME'S UP Now

TIME’S UP™ Now is the nonpartisan and not-for-profit advocacy and political arm of TIME’S UP. We advocate for safe, fair, and dignified work for all in the public and private sectors, calling for an end to harassment and other related forms of discrimination on the job. And we fight to rebuild the systems that have taken away women’s power for far too long. TIME’S UP Now is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization.