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Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and his wife Amy Sanders. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Women as props

Beto O’Rourke’s ‘good wife’ candidacy announcement did not go over well

By WITW Staff on March 15, 2019

Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke is facing criticism after announcing his campaign for president with a video of him talking — and his wife sitting next to him, not saying a word. Male politicians frequently have their wives stand beside them silently during speeches and announcements, a tableau so frequently trotted out it became the lynchpin of a hit TV show.

But critics say such behavior reinforces sexist notions that women should serve as props for powerful men in their moments of glory or downfall.

Other criticisms leveled at the former congressman suggested that his candidacy highlighted, unwittingly or not, the sharp contrast between how male and female presidential hopefuls are treated by the media. In a Vanity Fair profile of O’Rourke, the candidate’s 8-year-old son Henry told his dad that he would cry “all day” and “every day” if he ran for president. If O’Rourke had been a woman, some argued, his apparent willingness to set aside his duties as a parent would have been immediately weaponized against him.

O’Rourke’s media coverage, which often paints him as charismatic and charming, also contrasts with many gendered discussions of women candidates’ “likability.” When New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced her own presidential candidacy for 2020, for example, one of the first questions she was asked was whether she thought she was likable enough to win. President Obama infamously told Hillary Clinton she’s “likable enough” during a presidential debate, and current presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has faced scrutiny of whether she’s too tough on her staff.

Read the full story at The Cut.

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