Right here in the midst of a heated political season I think we can all agree that the old saying, “Liar, liar, pants on fire” still has many applications today. All you have to do is turn on the news to hear pundits speculating and commercials pointing fingers. The “he said” and “she said” accusations are just getting started, and by November most Americans will be numb and ready for it to be over.
But will it really be over? It will politically, for maybe a minute, but beyond that we definitely have some work to do as most recently pointed out by the Mormon Press. The group recently put together a chart on politicians that had been active enough on the national stage to get fact-checked by PolitiFact at least 50 times since the start of 2007. With this data they compiled “Who Lies More: A Comparison.”
The response to their chart was immediate and unprecedented, and shattered all of their previous benchmarks for reach and engagement. The main reason for the response? Commenters were furious that Hillary Clinton was rated as being rather honest. The fact that Hillary is often seen as “dishonest” isn’t rooted in her record, especially not when one compares her to Donald Trump. It is in fact, rooted in her gender. The bias is so decidedly gender specific that the Mormon Press writes, “In America we teach our children that women are liars.”
This is not a new idea. A woman’s credibility is questioned in the workplace, in courts, by law enforcement, in doctors’ offices, and in our political processes every day. People don’t trust women to be the boss or the employee. Case in point, a survey of managers in the United States revealed that they overwhelmingly distrust women who request flextime. This approach is trickling down to what our children are learning. According to a piece in Huffington Post, many, through default and tradition, casually and uncritically expose children to traditions that are fundamentally misogynistic – think domestic work, pay discrimination, and sex segregation in the workplace.
On the political stage in most cases, it’s also a matter of women having to work harder and climb a different mountain than their male counterparts. As the Mormon Press writes, “Women are held to a higher standard, and punished by voters to a greater extent for perceived failings. Hillary has had to walk this tightrope of being a woman trying to get things done in public–in ways that challenged patriarchal norms even as those norms were changing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that she’s paid a price in voter perceptions.”
In the process of climbing that mountain and working harder, many women may come across as assertive, and that too can work against them. Fast Company reports that earlier this year Stanford psychologist Larissa Tiedens and Melissa J. Williams of Emory University examined 71 studies on the way people respond to “assertive” behavior and broke the findings down by speakers’ gender. They found evidence that the well-known trade off women often face between competence and likability is considerable: Women pay a price for showing the same dominant traits that men are typically applauded for.
This is not a no-win situation. As we work towards equality, we can and will remove these preconceptions – if we all work together. It starts with our children. Any commitment to parity means challenging the stories that we tell our children and changing their views around women and equality. We need to give them examples of women doing anything and everything that men can do – with dignity and grace. We need to show them what it means to be a strong woman and fight for those we love, and for what we believe in. We need to celebrate women’s accomplishments in all areas of our community and on the national stage. And most importantly, we need to teach them from the very earliest ages that men and women are created equally. This can be an opportunity for women to work together for the greater good–for us to join hands with our sisters, and push the doors to equality – and all of the respect that comes with it – wide open.