Women Politicians and the Media

By Maria Braden | Go to book overview
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Chapter 10

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN AND ANN RICHARDS WAGED ELECTION CAMPAIGNS THAT, ACcording to media pundits, set new lows for sleaze and acrimony. After her 1992 New York Senate primary battle, Holtzman was dubbed the "town witch -- the most hated Democrat in New York politics" by New York magazine, while Richards accepted accolades for being tough enough to take and sling back political mud in her 1990 Texas gubernatorial campaign. How did Holtzman end up in the media gutter while Richards enjoyed what the New York Times called the "national adoration of the press"? The most obvious answer is that the media judged them by a double standard. Holtzman was campaigning against another woman. Richards was campaigning against a man.

Holtzman was one of four candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for a New York Senate seat in 1992, and when she attacked front-runner Geraldine Ferraro it became front-page news. Journalists and observers reacted with horror or glee, depending on their point of view. Why? Because a woman had attacked another woman. The Washington Times called it a "cat fight," while the New York Times termed it a "feminist paradox." A Washington Post headline seemed to view it as proof that women can't get along. It read: " Political Sisterhood Sours in N.Y. Race."

At first the race was seen as evidence that times had indeed hanged. In a year when more women than ever were running for elective office, the two prominent Democratic women in the race gave voters the opportunity to upset the Republican incumbent and send another woman to the Senate. But as the primary campaign heated up, some media observers expressed concern that the women weren't acting the way women were supposed to act. They were behaving more like traditional male politicians. It certainly wasn't the first


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