Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hillary's In To Win

The 2008 elections were a historical landmark in American history as many new thresholds were crossed, particularly regarding the political candidates for office. Though not the first time a woman had run for the Presidential nomination, this election saw Hillary Clinton rise in the primaries and nearly attain the nomination for president from the Democratic Party. Though she may seem too obvious a choice for discussing female politicians, I chose to analyze her campaign because she has achieved many firsts for American female politicians and her experiences best exemplify the plight of female candidacy for office in the US. Hillary’s campaign efforts were fierce and it was clear from the get go that she was serious about running for president and just as capable as her male counterparts to do so. Her campaign, though not successful in getting the nomination from her party, was successful in dually portraying her as a fighting, strong, no monkey business leader, as well as a woman with compassion and passion for stamping out gender inequality and sexism.

Hillary served as the First Lady to the US while her husband Bill Clinton served as president from 1994-2000, as Senator of New York from 2000-2009, and is currently serving as US Secretary of State. She is the first woman to represent the state of New York in the US Senate, as well as the first American First Lady to run for public office and to serve in the President’s cabinet. Hillary won more primaries and delegates than any other female candidate in American history and has arguably gotten the closest of any woman to sitting in the oval office.

Hillary’s campaign was somewhat of a roller coaster ride. Her campaign is known for being very determined and strong-willed (to match the powerhouse of a woman running for office) but is criticized for lacking clear lines of authority (Sheehy). Hillary’s team shifted around a bit and both her campaign manager and strategist changed in early 2008. Only one of the “Big Five” (the main leaders of her campaign) had ever run a national presidential campaign before, however, most of the people on Hillary’s team had been with her for a long time and they all respected and supported her (Sheehy). Her original strategist Mark Penn (in addition to her husband Bill) pushed Hillary to not run as a woman and portrayed her as tougher than any man. Some of her loyalists perpetuated this image by questioning Obama’s manhood and proclaiming Hillary as “the only candidate with the testicular fortitude to be president” (Sheehy). However, four of the Big Five thought that Hillary’s warmer, compassionate side needed to be displayed as well. The American people were already familiar with Hillary’s tough, fighting character from her experiences as First Lady and had already experienced plenty of “Hillary Hate” before even announcing that she wanted to run for president (Campbell). But were they familiar with her more personable side? And thus Hillary was kind of caught in a continuous battle of image—to present herself as tough enough to compete alongside men for the oval office, but still appeal to people who were looking for human qualities in her that they could relate with. In addition, Hillary could easily rack up a huge support system from female voters, if she played her cards right. Hillary has always been a huge advocate for the underdog, particularly for women. Playing up her plight against women’s inequality and using the prevalent sexism she encountered on the campaign trail would prove to be one of her biggest advantages in gaining voter support (Carlin).

One of most interesting things about this campaign was the decision to do the campaigning using her first name instead of her last name. Take a brief look at the campaigns of other candidates—Obama, McCain, Huckabee, Edwards, Palin, Biden—they all go by their last name. None of her male competitors campaigned using their first name, nor did the other significant female figure in the race. No one would know whom you’re talking about if you say, “vote for John.” And yet Hillary forsook her last name in her campaign and went by her first instead. It’s possible that the presentation of herself as “Hillary” rather than as “Clinton” was done as a way to separate herself from the former presidency of her husband, and to emphasize that it her candidacy for president, not his. Considering the confusion that could potentially arise, this makes logical sense. (When someone says the name “Clinton,” who is first to pop into your head, Bill or Hillary?) Or it could have been that this was a strategy to boost her feminine side. The name “Hillary” sounds much more feminine and draws direct attention to the fact that yes, she is a woman, and she is running for president. This subtle appeal to her femininity helped to balance out her strong, masculine personality and make her more appealing to the population of voters that is still intimidated by the idea of a strong-willed female president (Carroll).

If you look at Hillary’s campaign in terms of electoral outcome, then her campaign was not a success. She did not get the bid from her party to run as the Democratic nominee for president. However, there is much more to be taken into consideration than just getting elected. Hillary now serves as the Secretary of State for the US on President Obama’s cabinet, which in itself is a huge success, and a huge task. Some consider Hillary’s campaign to be a feminist reawakening in America, drawing attention to the huge amount of sexism in politics and the media (Fortini). In the end, Hillary’s campaign showed America that women have what it takes to compete with men for the Oval Office. It showed that sexism is alive and well in our country. It planted the idea of a woman as our commander in chief into the minds of Americans. And the consideration of that idea is what is setting the stage for the US to elect a woman as president sometime in the near future.

Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs. 1998. “The Discursive Performance of Femininity: Hating Hillary.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1-20.
Carlin, Diana B. and Kelly L. Winfrey. 2009. “Have you come a long way baby? Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Sexism in 2008 Campaign Coverage.” Communication Studies, Vol. 60, No. 4, pp. 326-343.
Carroll, Susan J. 2009. “Reflections on Gender and Hillary Clinton’s Political Campaign: The Good, the Bad, and the Misogynistic.” Politics & Gender, Vol. 5, pp. 1-20.
Fortini, Amanda. 2008. “The Feminist Reawakening.” New York Magazine.
Sheehy, Gail. 2008. “Hillaryland at War.” Vanity Fair.
          The requisites in actual representation are that the Representative should sympathize with their      constituents; should think as they think and feel as they; feel; and that for these purposes should even be residents among them.
                                                --James Madison: The Federalist (Fenno 2003, XXV)

            Since passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 many things have changed in America, one thing that has not changed significantly enough is that larger numbers of women are not running for political office. “In American society men continue to be somewhat more active in politics than women. Although women are more likely to go to the polls, with respect to other forms of political activity, men are more likely to take part” (Burns et al. 2001, 1). The statistics showing this difference found by Nancy Burns and collogues suggest that the difference is very small even “paltry” but then when considered within a large population the results are dramatic.
If we make the rough assumption that there are 200,000,000 voting age adults in the United States  and that they are divided equally between men and women, then the participatory deficit translates each year into:
            2,000,000 fewer phone calls or letters to public officials from women than from men;
            3,000,000 fewer women than men involved in informal efforts to solve community problems;
            7,000,000 fewer campaign contributions from women than men; and
            9,000,000 fewer women than men affiliated with a political organization (Burns et al. 2001, 2).

When we look at these numbers we see that women need to be involved in politics at its various levels and in its different ways of participation. There are many women in our communities, states and nation that are trying to break into the man dominated arena of political office. It is not easy and there are many barriers to be over come. Most women do not get into office on the first try and then when they do they have more struggles as they try to move from one level of political office to another. As women move into political office they are forging the way for more women to participate in politics.
            Aleta Taylor is a good example of what it takes for a woman to become politically active. As a mother of seven children her activism started at home and in school being an advocate for her children. With a firefighter-paramedic husband she was also aware of and involved in what was going on in her city.  After living in her community for many years it became natural to voice her opinions and to speak for her neighbors and friends. As a naturally out spoken and assertive person friends and family suggested that she should run for City Council. With her natural energy, enthusiasm, assertiveness and condor she ran her own campaign. She would unknowingly “use voters’ disposition toward gender as an asset rather than a liability” she also stressed the “compassion”, “traditional” and “women’s issues” (Herrnson 2003, 245).  In other words she ran as herself, a woman, caring about issues that were close to home.
            Here campaign strategy was simple and clear: To talk with every person in her district. Aleta put together a packet of information and set out to visit all the homes and businesses in the district. With the help of friends and family, every person in the district
received a call about the upcoming election and was reminded to vote. A Facebook and Web page were also used to get out information on her views on issues. Before Election Day she had personally visited all 2,300 houses in the district. Her personal approach and the many conversations with people in the community were the center of the campaign. She noted on her Facebook page that “It makes me sad to hear women say they won’t vote”. I know, you are busy, bit it’s your right, and you deserve to be heard” (Facebook Nov. 7, 2011). As a woman running for office she had hoped for support from woman and that she might motivate them to come out and vote.
            Aleta Taylor took office in 2008. She then ran again in 2011, loosing by 2 votes. While still in office, but after loosing her bid for second term she decided to run for Mayor. She did not win the mayoral election, so decided to run for the State House of Representatives. She used similar campaign strategies and even had four cottage meetings at her own home and two “meet the candidate” meetings in District fire stations.  She went out into the community when possible and even debated, but because the area was so large she could not meet all her constituents face to face.  Her message changed to broader national issues and not the “Women’s Issues” that had been the concerns when she was running for City Councilwoman. A strong difference in image and issues is seen on her web site for the House of Representatives election.
            On the web site she uses the tag line “Your Voice on Capitol Hill!” this is a far cry from the city Councilwoman campaign where she was representing the people in her own neighborhood on the issues common to them all. It is easy to see on her web page that she aligned herself strongly with her “party”, gun issues and with other issues that may be seen as more “male” or “force and violence” issues which voters may not see her as being as competent in, as the “compassion” issues. (Herrnson 2003) In this new campaign Aleta may have taken too strong of a stance that was seen by voters as being aggressive, something that voters would view as negative for a woman. A quote on her Facebook site shows this strength that voters may have misconstrued: “It is not my style to attack my opponent. If you have a concern please talk to me. I feel that my dedication to my community speaks for itself” (Facebook 2011). She was playing fair but may have been seen to be to strong for some voters.
            Aleta Taylor ran against a male opponent that had never held office before. He had a famous name and came from a popular and well known family as well as being an advocate for the “constitution” something that is very important to this constituency.  Her opponent was probably viewed as “strong” and “warm” because of his religious background and that he is a small businessman experiencing the hardships of making payroll during a time when the economy was not doing well, he also supported education and rights for everyone to have a public education and other issues that women voters are usually more concerned about.
            Aleta was very successful in her first campaign for City Council because she was able to be “Person to person” as Richard F. Fenno calls it with her constituents. One of the congressmen that Fenno interviewed explains what this means: “He thinks of himself as totally one with the community—a microcosm of it…when he goes home, he “beats the bushes’ and “ploughs the ground”, “we know each other by first name.”(Fenno 2003, 63). Aleta won her first election because the voters knew her and she was one of them. As James Madison said, she “should think as they think and feel as they feel”, she did this as a councilwomen.  Her strength was in the relationships and the time she spent with people one on one. When she championed the “women’s” issues she was seen as being an advocate for the people that had elected her. She was able to run as herself, a caring, informed political participant, representing her district as one of them; this is who voters wanted to vote for.

Burns, Nancy, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Sidney Verba. 2001. The Private Roots of  Public   Action. Harvard University Press.

Facebook page. Aleta Taylor. 2011. Facebook page. Quotes: Nov. 2, 2011 and Nov. 7, 2011. (accessed Oct. 2012).

Fenno Jr., Richard F. 2003. Home Style: House Members in Their Districts. Addison-  Wesley Education Publishers Inc.

Herrnson, Paul S., J. Celeste Lay, and Atiya Kai Stokes. Women Running “as Women”:           Candidate Gender, Campaign Issues, and voter-Targeting Strategies. The Journal of Politics, Vol.65, No. 1.February 2003, 244-255.

Taylor, Aleta. Official website.  (accessed Oct 2012).

Mia Love

The Interaction of Party Affiliation and Gendered Campaigns: Case Study of Mia Love

                Utah’s 4th district is making a name for itself as one to watch in the elections this November. The tight race between incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson (D) and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R) is making national headlines. The district really isn’t significant for any reason (unless you ask the locals). It is basically fly-over country.  So why the clamor? First, a six-term incumbent who is the opposite party from the majority of his constituents will likely finally get the boot. Second, his challenger is a woman. And black. And Republican. 

Mia Love                Mia Love has the potential to become the first African-American Republican Congresswoman ever; and yet, that is not something she likes to point out. Though she has the possibility of making history and breaking a significant glass ceiling, NBC reported: “Love feels that her race won’t be a factor in her effort to become the Republicans’ first African-American congresswoman, saying that her race and gender “doesn’t matter.”” The Salt Lake Tribune added, “Love has tried to downplay her race and gender, insisting that policy differences should be the focus of the race.” The fact that Love is not making an issue of her gender or race (both of which are especially significant in Utah) seems to actually be a defining point of her campaign. I’ll first give you some background on Love’s campaign, and then address the question of why she is avoiding the gender issue.

Love’s Campaign Story
                 After Mia Love had served on her city council and now as the Mayor of Saratoga Springs, she began a bid for Congress early this year and soon won 70% of the delegates at the state convention (WashPost). Love’s campaign has focused on three simple messages: fiscal discipline, limited government, and personal responsibility (Issues). Her status as the challenger at first necessitated a grassroots campaign because of lack of funds. Love’s campaign website totes a list of “cottage meetings,” where a citizen opens his or her home to neighbors to meet Love.

                 Love’s campaign has certainly had its rough patches: Love is on her third campaign manager and there have been multiple miscommunications and scheduling problems among inexperienced staffers. The Salt Lake Tribune reported the Utah Republican Party “stepping in” to help manage operations.  As her campaign grew in strength, the Republican Party started sending in national figures to campaign for her such as John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Condoleeza Rice, Paul Ryan, and John McCain. The connection with the national Republican party grew as the National Republican Congressional Committee quickly became her largest supporter. The Salt LakeTribune reported that as of October 15th, the NRCC had spent $1,076,721 on advertising on behalf of Love.  This all led up to an invitation from Mitt Romney’s campaign to speak at the Republican National Convention (DeseretNews). The following explosion in news coverage helped Love move ahead of Matheson in some polls and caused her to more than double Matheson’s fundraising in the third quarter (Love4Utah).

Is Love’s Avoidance of Gender Issues unique?

                So, why is Love refusing to campaign on the fact that she is a woman? Perhaps we can gain some insight from comparing her to a couple other female candidates.

                In the Love-Matheson race, we have a Male Democratic Incumbent facing a Female Republican Challenger. If we reverse just one of these points, we could compare this race to a Female Democratic Incumbent facing a Male Republican challenger. In other words, we could compare the Matheson-Love race to the race between Jan Schakowsky (D) of the Illinois ninth district to her challenger Timothy Wolfe (R).

Jan Schakowsky                Though Love and Schakowsky are both women, there is little else their campaigns have in common. One commonality is that they are both strong partisans, running in a district where theirs is the majority party. Schakowsky is said to be an “outspoken progressive” (Progressive) - a far left Democrat who serves as Chief Deputy Minority Whip in the House of Representatives (House). Love is a strong Republican known to support the Tea Party. 

Love and Schakowsky approach women’s issues from opposite directions. As I mentioned before, Love largely avoids gender issues. In fact, the three issues her campaign runs on (fiscal discipline, limited government, and personal responsibility) are decidedly not stereotypical feminine issues. On the other hand, Schakowsky is deeply involved in women’s issues and uses that in her campaign. Her campaign website says that she is a “leading advocate for women’s issues in Congress” and lists the policies she has supported. 

                One other interesting difference between these two candidates is the use of family roles in their campaigns. Mia Love, being in conservative, Mormon, Utah, often emphasizes, “I’m a wife and mother, first and foremost" (SLTrib). Schakowsky, however, rarely brings up family except quickly at the bottom of her biography page on her campaign website. This likely reflects an ideological difference. However, it is important to note that family relationships would not be a strong point for Schakowsky – she has divorced and re-married and her second husband was recently convicted of bank fraud (NNDB).

                The comparison of Love and Schakowsky leads me to hypothesize that gender is used in different ways when campaigning in different parties. As one more slightly less similar example, I wanted to look at another Republican woman to compare to Love. One recent and well known example is Michele Bachmann. Bachmann and Love are both strong religious conservatives and both downplayed the gender card and largely avoided gender politics (HuffPost). They also both focused on their family roles and background as an important part of their campaign message. Bachmann often referred to her experiences as a mother of five and foster parent to twenty-three. An interesting point of departure is that as Bachmann got closer to the election, she started emphasizing her gender to try to collect votes (HuffPost). However, she still did not address women’s issues – she simply referred to herself as a strong woman and feminine leader. 

                The two comparisons to Schakowsky and Bachmann lead me to believe that how a female candidate uses her gender is a product of her party. It may be that Republicans are more likely to mention family roles, while Democrats are more likely to run on women’s issues. If we believe this, then it is not surprising that Love has largely downplayed her gender and the historic nature of her race. Noting that she is a strong partisan and is running in a very conservative area, it is to be expected that her gender not be highlighted in her campaign. Yes, Mia Love is a woman, but in her run for election, it is her Republican affiliation that determines the content of her campaign.

Lipstick on a Pit Bull: Sarah Palin's Campaign Style

            As the first Alaskan and the second woman to run on a major U.S. party ticket, Sarah Palin has made many first strides in politics. Palin took the political world by storm in what appeared to be overnight breakthrough. She was relatively unheard of until she was chosen to be the running mate for John McCain in the summer of 2008. While Palin had run for several other political offices prior to this nomination, her run for Vice President is her most covered and analyzed campaign. While most of her campaign efforts have been typical to that of either gender, Palin did pursue a distinct folksy, suburban mom image for her campaign for vice president.

Similar to any candidate, no issue was considered outside of Palin’s prevue of discussion.  She commented on issues from both the typical “masculine” and “feminine” spectrum. She openly spoke out in defense of Creationism and was strongly Pro-life, which could both be interpreted as “woman’s issues” as they are social issues. However, she is also out-spoken on gun control and foreign policy, as she an avid member of the National Rifle Association and considers herself knowledgeable in foreign relations. This tactic of speaking on issues across in the board in her campaigning can be seen as a typical requirement for any candidate, regardless of gender. It was not until after her unsuccessful vice presidential bid that she began her “Pink Elephant Movement”, in which she purposefully supported conservative female candidates up for election.

            Palin created a strong, public image for herself that was particularly feminine in design, which differs greatly from comparable male candidates. Instead of dressing in the typical masculine power suits of most female candidates, Palin played up her feminine image. She wore red leather jackets and suits tailored to her figure. When the media lashed out at the Republican Party for spending $150,000 on her clothing, Palin called it a “double standard”, saying "I think Hillary Clinton was held to a different standard in her primary race.” Comments such as these highlighted her roles as a female candidate  andas the first woman to run on a GOP ticket.
Palin also wanted voters to see the “folksy image Palin has crafted as a typical, suburban mom” (Associated Press). She was not ashamed of her roles as wife and mother, and she played up her image particularly as a hockey mom. She posed the question, “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?” With ‘lipstick’ as the answer, she utilized Republican motherhood well in her campaign. Her family appeared with her constantly, and she played up the idea that she was tough and defensive as a mother. By strongly addressing the issues of her motherhood, she took a strong stance away from most male politicians.      

While positive familial ties are generally played up in a campaign, many researchers argue that women fair worse politically when they have children at home and run for political office. This was particularly true of Palin’s campaign, as her seventeen-year-old unmarried daughter Bristol was pregnant. As a strong conservative candidate, Palin received a lot of backlash for this particular scandal. Individuals across the spectrum argued that Palin should not run, given the tough situations her family was facing. A Unitarian Minister named Debra Haffner commented, “The mom part of me says how did this woman expect to run for vice president with a 4-month-old baby with a disability and a 17-year-old about to have a baby of her own?” (Abcarian). Criticisms like these came from various sources, indicating that her initial push to play up her femininity and motherhood may not have been wise for her campaign. Palin had also told reporters in 2004 that “she decided not to run for the U.S. Senate because her teenage son opposed it. ‘How could I be the team mom if I was a U.S. senator?’ she asked” (Abcarian). Many pundits asked the question: Why then but not now? Unfortunately the U.S. Political machine does not seem to favor political women who are also concurrent mothers, which is why many past women have not played their families up as much as Palin chose to do. Palin did not back down from this part of her life, however. She consciously chose to utilize her motherhood as a political strategy, and it may not have been a successful political tool.

In keeping with her Alaskan roots, Palin used a colloquial, conversational tone in many of her speeches. This helped keep up her “folksy” characteristics, and it was well received by supporters. They appreciated her ability to sit down and drink a six pack with Joe the Plummer. However, it appeared that she was not extremely prepared for the national political scene on an intellectual level. Differing greatly from male and female candidates alike, the McCain campaign only allowed her to have three televised interviews with large media outlets prior to the Vice Presidential debate. She received an outpouring of criticism after her interview with Katie Couric, in which she claimed Alaska’s proximity to Russia made her an expert in foreign policy and could not identify a major Supreme Court case that she saw as monumental. At first her common woman persona appeared to work well in her reception, but when she required three days of intense preparation prior to the Vice presidential debate, critics appeared on the Left and Right. They argued she may not be ready for the position, particularly as she was plucked from obscurity. The campaign tactic of not allowing her to be interviewed has been pointed out as one of the large mistakes of the McCain/Palin Campaign.
Palin’s initial decisions to play up her femininity, motherhood, and folksy charm took a sharp turn from the comparable campaigns of male candidates. Joe Biden was the exact opposite of Palin at the time: masculine, father on the side, and well-educated on the issues. Her campaign choices served as a way of making her distinctive and impressionable. And it did have lasting effects. She was chosen to be one of world’s 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine. Her unique campaign style certainly created a public image for her, but it was not the wisest choice in running for vice president. Right before the election, Palin received “the lowest vote of confidence in a running mate since the elder George Bush chose then-Indiana senator Dan Quayle to join his ticket in 1988” (Page). The American people on the average did not feel she was ready to be a part of the White House. Palin may have come on too strong in with her folksy, suburban mom image, and ultimately, her campaign decisions hurt her chances in the election.


Abcarian, Robin. "Insiders See 'New Feminism'" Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 04
Sept. 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.
Costello, Carol, Dana Bash, and Scott J. Anderson. "Conservatives to McCain Camp: Let Palin
Be Palin." CNN. Cable News Network, 30 Sept. 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. 
Mayer, Jane. "The Insiders: How John McCain Came to Pick Sarah Palin." The Political Scene.
The New Yorker, 27 Oct. 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. 
Nagourney, Adam. "Concerns About Palin’s Readiness as Big Test Nears." Politics. The New
York Times, 29 Sept. 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.
Page, Susan. "Poll: Voters Uncertain on Palin." 2008 Election Coverage. USA Today, 30 Aug.
2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. 
Parker, Kathleen. "Sarah Palin, from Pit Bull to Mama Grizzly." Washington Post. The
Washington Post, 14 July 2010. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. 
The Associated Press. "Palin Blames Gender Bias for Clothing Controversy.", 24 Oct. 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Women's Representation in French Politics

A main area of study within political science is gender gaps and the causes of gender gaps. This area of study has been connected with gaps in education, work, and political involvement. While it is widely known that gender gaps do exist some countries are seeking for gender parity or more specifically better representation of women in political offices. Grasping women’s political representation in France can be achieved through understanding the current level of gender parity, the Parity law, and the 2007 Presidential election.
Table A
The representation of women in the French political sphere can be grasped by understanding France’s current state of gender parity. It is understood that gender parity refers to the equality of men and women in political offices. Referring to Table 1 shows that France currently is ranked 37th in gender parity in relation to women in Lower or Single Houses. France’s 26.9% of women representation in the Lower House in comparison to Rwanda’s 56.3% shows that France’s current level of women representation can greatly improve. When inspecting the level of women’s representation of the Upper House it shows a decrease in percentage than that of the Lower House. One reason for this lower percentage of representation is explained by Rainbow Murray, “Women tend to enter parliament later than men, with fewer political resources at the local level. Their careers tend to be shorter, and the gendered division of labour is perpetuated in the National Assembly through segregation of parliamentary committees. As a result, it is harder for women to progress in their political careers and to reach the political summit (Murray 2010).” Murray’s explanation provides an insight into why women representation is lower in the Upper House. Although there are higher gaps in representation for women on a higher political level the main focus is on overall political gender gap. In an article by Zoe Williams she states, “Due to very inflexible rules about the pool from which the political class is draw. All politicians come from the highly competitive set of graduate schools Les Grandes Ecoles which, until recently, had only a smattering of women, and none at all in Polytechnique (Williams 2011).” Although different laws, one of which will be discussed later, have helped gender parity Williams’ theory suggests that since less women attend these schools they have an unequal chance of being in pool where candidates are chosen. Understanding the current levels of women representation in France’s government provides a foundation for seeing how the Parity law has affected gender parity.
The Parity law provides a greater understanding of the level of gender parity in France. An article on the BBC News website simplifies the Parity law, “France introduced a law in 2000 aimed at creating parity between the sexes in parliament. The law says all parties must either ensure that 50% of their candidates in any poll are women, or face financial penalties (BBC News 2006).” The Parity law has greatly increased the level of political participation for women in France. A 2001 article by Rachel Alembakis provides statistics for the proportion of women in government before the Parity law took effect, “France has a lower proportion of women serving in public office than any of her neighbors in the European Union. Women make up 10% of the national parliament (Alembakis 2001).” Referring again to Table A we can see that there has been over a 15% increase in women representation since the Parity law. The Parity law shows France’s desire to give women a more equal chance and it also encourages women to become more politically active. Both consequences help France in the goal of gender parity. The Parity law not only increases the level of women’s political participation but also provides a greater chance for women to reach higher levels of office in France.
The 2007 French Presidential election provides information that increases knowledge of women’s representation in France. Many see the 2007 Presidential elections as one of great importance mainly because one of the Presidential candidates was a woman. Ségolène Royal was chosen as the French Socialist candidate to go against the eventual presidential winner, Nicolas Sarkozy. The great importance of this election was the fact that it was very rare for a woman to be elected as a Presidential candidate by a major party. Rainbow Murray gives an explanation of how Royal’s candidacy helped gender parity, “While Royal’s presidential bid was not successful, it set an important precedent, demonstrating that a woman was capable of qualifying to the second round of a presidential contest. The idea of women in leadership positions has become normalized, and it is no longer remarkable to see a woman in a position of power (Murray 2010).”  I feel that what Ségolène Royal accomplished in becoming a Presidential candidate was one of the greatest proponents for gender equality in France. Changing gendered societal norms, I believe, is the hardest part of reaching equality in a political world. Those norms are so ingrained in each person that many times it is not recognized when a person is subject to those norms. This is why I feel that Royal’s presidential bid was so important to the French political system. Although, there is still a disparity between men and women in France that gap is continuing to be closed and Ségolène Royal’s presidential candidacy was a proponent in helping erase the gender gap.
Equality of men and women in politics is something that no country is perfect at but it is something that many countries are working towards. Specifically, France has made strides to close the gender gap. Understanding the gender gap or women’s political representation in France is better understood through knowledge about the current level of gender parity, the Parity law, Ségolène Royal’s 2007 presidential bid. These different variables show how France is heading towards a more equal representation of genders in government and in the years to come I can see France continuing to close the gender gap within politics. 

Alembakis, Rachel. France's new rules put more women in politics. Post-Gazette. Accessed October 8, 2012.
France Boosts Women Politicians. BBC News. Accessed October 9, 2012.
Murray, Rainbow. "Women in French Politics: Still le deuxieme sexe?" Modern and Contemporary France. Vol. 18, No.4, Nov. 2010 (411-414).
Williams, Zoe. New Europe: Why France's gender code makes life hard for women. The Guardian. Accessed October 8, 2012.