Nadine Strossen: Do women still face discrimination in American politics?

Question: Do women still face discrimination in American politics? 

Nadine Strossen: It is not my specialty to study women in politics, but I have shared many podiums with women who do and I am shocked that at the statistics I hear about how women are so under represented in the national media for example, there is a whole organization called the White House Project which focuses on getting women not only into the White House but other top positions of political power and they have worked with universities that have studied for example the major talk shows which show that just the shockingly overwhelming preponderance of men as speakers and debaters even when women are the most relevant experts. So, for example if you have a women in Congress who is chairing a key committee, how often she will not be invited and instead it is some man who has a less significant position. Now, anecdotally I can tell…so as I say I haven’t studied these issues, others have and what their studies reveal is quite scary, what I have observed myself anecdotally is myself as a speaker and I am…by definition if I am speaking somewhere it is a woman speaking, but I can't tell you how many conferences I am still speaking at, especially if it is on issues such as national security, but I guess that is seen as a man's issue. I recently spoke at a conference at a very prestigious military university and it was a two day conference with panels all day long, each for two days, each panel had several speakers and a moderator, and in the entire conference, I was the only female who was either a speaker or a moderator. I was a speaker and at… and I noticed it and a lot of people don’t even notice it. After I spoke, a lot of the military officials came up to me and said oh, you must really feel like a fish out of water and I knew they were saying because you are a civil libertarian and we are military, and I said, yes, it was rather strange to be the only woman and they all had this…were taken aback because they hadn’t even noticed it and I had a very disturbing incident a few years ago, speaking on a campus in Virginia State University there and they had a lecture series that I noticed had been created by female faculty members and I said why… and I was speaking at it and I said why did you do this and they said, well, because we did a survey of all the speakers that were invited by all the departments and the president and almost all of them were men and when there were women, they were invited to speak about women's topics such as during Women's History Month. Now, that doesn’t happen to me, but I can never know…it turns out that I will often be the only woman or one of very few women to be speaking on a normal topic on campus. So, I guess there still really is a problem that we are stereotyped as not being able to deal with certain tough guy's issues.

 

Recorded On: 2/14/08

Strossen is shocked by how underrepresented women are in the media.

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