I woke up Wednesday morning, checked the political news online, and breathed a very happy sigh of relief. It wasn’t that I had favored candidates who won, or that I was emotionally invested in any of the races. Rather, it was the fact that so many of the winners were women, and the press barely batted an eyelash.
For decades, women who ran for office were by definition "the woman candidate," forced to simultaneously defy and embrace gender stereotypes while also going through the already-grueling candidate tasks of getting their issues heard and their supporters rallied. At some point, we needed to move beyond this; female candidates should be seen as unremarkable, rather than the electoral equivalent of unicorns. On Tuesday night, we saw that.
I have a pretty long list of political disagreements with the conservative woman who advanced on Tuesday night. But at the same time, I was pleased to see so many front-page stories about their ascent that focused exclusively on matters of substance: Sharron Angle’s statements on social security, Blanche Lincoln’s use of surrogate campaigners, the political environment that Nikki Haley faced in South Carolina, Carly Fiorina’s opinions on immigration, and Meg Whitman’s campaign spending. These women were, by and large, not reduced to sexist caricatures or stereotypes; they were treated like candidates. Even the accusations of extramarital affairs leveled at Haley didn’t cause the election to devolve into a sexist mess. Save a handful of feature pieces that noted the increase in the number of GOP women running and winning, all of the female candidates were judged in the press, for the most part, on the merits of their candidacies, and not their looks, their “femininity,” or who was home taking care of their kids.
In the coming months, I’ll be rooting for candidates that share my beliefs, and I hope to hear what the conservative women who advanced plan to do to protect and advance women’s rights and increase women’s political participation. But for now, I’m happy to set partisanship aside and cheer for the fact that at last, women running for office are no longer being treated as rare specimens. They’re being treated, as they should be, as candidates