Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Who Writes the History? He or She?

          “In 2006, Washington Post columnist Joel Achenbach wrote this about Hillary Clinton: ‘She’s running. You can tell by the hair, which has finally stopped changing styles, every strand frozen in place, as though she’s ready to be on a coin’ (Achenbach, 2006). Two years later, New York Times columnist Marueen Dowd said this about Sarah Palin: ‘Sarah has single-handedly ushered out the ‘Sex and the City’ era, and made the sexy new model for America a retro one-the glamorous Pioneer Woman, packing a gun, a baby, and a Bible.’”[i] Women running for office are usually portrayed in a much different light in the media than their male counterparts. As exemplified in this quote a lot of emphasis is put on a woman’s physical appearance while running for office. News often pays more attention to how a woman dresses or looks than they do for a man. An example of this is Hillary Clinton’s “rainbow pant-suit.” However, physical appearance is not the only difference in media coverage between male and female candidates. In the race between Utah’s 4th District Mia Love and Doug Owens, the media was intensely focused on Mia Love’s minority status as a black, Mormon, conservative, woman running for the House. In contrast, the media focused on Owens platform and compared him to Love in terms of her minority status. Any focus directly on him covered his platform and ideology rather than mentioning him by his minority status as a Democrat in Utah. Where does this difference in coverage come from? Why does it exist?
Being a black candidate in Utah is rare. Being a female candidate in Utah is also rare. Being a black, conservative, LDS, female candidate anywhere is unheard of. Mia Love understood this when she entered the race for US House against Doug Owens. Together, these four minorities gave her headlines in the news without much effort.  However, these headlines were all focused on her race, religion, gender, or political party rather than her ability as a candidate or her political platform. One article stated that Love was elected only to further the white agenda rather than elected for her abilities.[ii] Darron Smith of the Huffington Post said that Love is “benefitting from a form of ‘white privilege’”[iii] Love tried to combat the stereotypes by stating that she was elected because she fits into constituent values. Being black, LDS, female, or conservative did not have an effect. Instead it was due to her connection with her constituents and her abilities.[iv] One news article supported her statement saying that she was elected because of her stance on abortion, gun laws, and other such prevalent political issues.[v] While Mia Love may be correct in assuming her election was based off of her qualifications and connection with her constituents, the fact of the matter is that she is a conundrum in politics. The media sees her as a black, conservative, LDS, woman who championed the system.[vi]
In contrast to Mia Love’s media coverage, Doug Owens coverage focused either strictly on his agenda and ideology or on him in comparison with Mia Love. Most of the articles analyzed the polls regarding Owens success in relation to Love. Whether or not he was ahead of Love in the polls and why or why not were the prevalent questions asked.[vii] One article compared Doug Owens political ideology versus Mia Love’s political ideology.[viii] Despite the fact the Owens was running as a Democrat in a very conservative county, his party identification was overlooked next to Mia Love’s intense diversity within the political competition. In fact, most articles talking about Owens connected his race with Love’s in some way. One article even identified why Love’s shortcomings would give Owens the race.[ix] Owens was not able to run his own campaign without Love’s name next to his because of her background.
Mia Love was an individual in the media. Doug Owens was a couple. The question is why? All the media focus on Love was directed towards her race, gender, and religion in connection with her political ideology. The purpose was to accentuate her differences in the political sphere by focusing on her minority status. Doug Owens on the other hand was very much the typical Utah politician with the exception of his political party. Despite being a Democrat, Owens was white, middle aged, and LDS; very stereotypical Utah candidate characteristics. His political party was the only minority status he held and was significantly diminished next to Love’s minority status. The differences in media coverage came because Love is a political anomaly. Women in general are political anomalies although they are becoming less so. However, Love is breaking into an area of firsts. Being a conservative in Utah is not different. Being LDS in Utah is not different. Being conservative, LDS, black, and a woman breaks into unknown political territory. In the article Is She Man Enough Lindsey Meeks explains why Love’s minority status is so prevalent in media, especially as a woman. “Female politicians are by default norm breakers in the United States, and this empirical reality may compel journalists to describe women candidates, but not their male counterparts, in a way that conveys female politicians and mixed-gender elections as deviant.”[x] Society is not used to “deviants.” People who are different from the norm are scrutinized by the public until they are determined acceptable or not. When women run for political office they are defying the norms and people want to try to understand why. What makes them different? Who are they? The media is particularly interested in spreading the information because they thrive off of the anomalies; the stories that peak people’s interests. The question is whether or not that media coverage is destructive of not for women. Meeks explains this effect on women running for political office. “To be clear, novelty labeling can positively or negatively frame women, depending on the context of news coverage. A more positive labeling may suggest a historic quality to a woman’s candidacy, describing her as a transformative figure, which may be desirable to voters. However, all novelty labeling in news contexts go some significant distance toward suggesting—sometimes explicitly, much more often implicitly—that women are novel, unusual, simply different within the political arena. “[xi] Love seems to have received both ends of the news coverage spectrum. She had both positive coverage because of her difference that portrayed her as capable and intriguing. She also received negative coverage that berated her for identifying politically differently than most people of her race.
News coverage for men and women is very different in politics. For Mia Love, the entire focus was on what set her apart politically. For Doug Owens, the focus was on his success in relation to Love. The media seeks out the anomalies in elections because they have stories and capture the attention of their audience. Since women candidates and politicians are rare, they are usually the anomalies in political races. Mia Love was not only a female candidate; but a black, LDS, conservative, female candidate. She was made to be covered by the media because she was making history.

[i][i] Meeks, Lindsey. "Is She “Man Enough”? Women Candidates, Executive Political Offices, and News Coverage." Journal of Communication 62.1 (2012): 175-93. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[ii] Dickson, Patricia. "Black Liberal Intellectual Downplays Mia Love's Historic Election." American Thinker. American Thinker, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[iii] Owens, Eric. "Sorry, What? The Huffington Post Says Mia Love Enjoys White Privilege." The Daily Caller, 9 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[iv] Zoom, Doktor. "Postracial GOP Elects Mia Love Not Because She's Black, But For The Content Of Her Crazy." Wonkette. Wonkette, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[v] Glionna, John M., and Matt Pearce. "Is Black Republican Mia Love the GOP's next Superstar?" Detroit Free Press. Gannett Company, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[vi] Lesley, Alison. "Mia Love: The First Black Woman Republican In Congress Is Mormon." World Religion News. World Religion News, 16 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[vii] Roche, Lisa Riley. "Doug Owens Ahead of Mia Love in New Poll." Deseret News, 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[viii] Luu, Cynthia. "Doug Owens vs. Mia Love - The Daily Utah Chronicle." Daily Utah Chronicle. University Studio Media, 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[ix] Schott, Bryan. "Why Doug Owens Will Win on Tuesday." Coala Web, 2 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[x] Meeks, Lindsey. "Is She “Man Enough”? Women Candidates, Executive Political Offices, and News Coverage." Journal of Communication 62.1 (2012): 175-93. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

[xi] Meeks, Lindsey. "Is She “Man Enough”? Women Candidates, Executive Political Offices, and News Coverage." Journal of Communication 62.1 (2012): 175-93. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

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