Editor’s Notes: This blog was written and submitted by Vision 2020 New Mexico Delegate Roxanne Lara.
For the past 4 months, I have been engaged in heavy campaigning across my state for the position of Chair of the Democratic Party of the State of New Mexico. This is an elected position by nearly 400 delegates from all 33 counties in New Mexico, from urban areas like Albuquerque and Santa Fe to some very rural areas. In my travels, I met many wonderful people who believed in me and my candidacy. I was blessed with new friends in all corners of the state and in-between. The race was hard fought, but my opponent Sam Bregman won this one in the end. There were three contenders–myself, Cornelia Lange and Sam.
Almost immediately upon entering the race, I started receiving comments about my hair, my clothing, selection of jewelry and, of course, the height of my heels. I also received numerous, unsolicited comments about the other woman in the race and her appearance. After four months in the race, it wasn’t until the last month, that I heard any comment about the man’s attire or appearance.
What is most telling is that these comments came from mostly women. Throughout this entire race, I found that the most “criticism” came from women–it was women who judged my appearance and told me what I should or should not be wearing; women who said horrible things about me to my supporters; and women who played games with their support/nonsupport of me. Don’t get me wrong. There were many wonderful women who worked hard in my campaign and will be my lifelong friends, but I was struck by the number of “woman advocates” who were not.
The differences between true woman-advocates and the others were pretty clear. Women who support women stay away from snarky comments about appearances, and they judge only on qualifications. Women who support women look for ways to be helpful and not engage in gossip to tear women down. Women who support women are honest about their support and don’t play games with whoever is in the room at the time. Women who support women change the conversation when it gets away from the merits of the candidates.
Now, I don’t believe that women should support women just because we are the same gender. But I do believe that if we really want to see the numbers change, then we, as women, have a responsibility to not be the ones driving the petty conversations. We should be the ones stopping them. I live in a state with a woman governor and above-average numbers of women in elected office but we can do better in terms of gender equality when we walk the walk.
So, next time someone engages you in Hillary Clinton’s hairstyle or Michelle Obama’s choice of clothing or that your locally-elected female candidate has “put on a few pounds” or that Sarah Palin “sure is pretty,” we have an obligation to stand up and change that discussion to “Hillary sure was one of the best Secretary of States we’ve ever had, traveling to more countries and working with more world leaders than any other Secretary” or “Michelle really has heightened the conversation on healthy lifestyles for our children” or “Sarah Palin sure did a remarkable feat by becoming Alaska’s youngest-ever and first female governor.”
Whether you “like” the candidate or not, we as women must stand up and ensure the discussion is on merits – not looks or pettiness which only tears women down.