Christine O’Donnell’s Very Candidacy is Sexism

Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell has said some strange things in her public life. She admitted to dabbling in witchcraft and then recanted that statement with one of the most bizarre political ads of the season. She’s become late night comedy cold with her seemingly never-ending store of anti-masturbation quotes from her days as a purity pundit. She’s even suggested women serving in the military are a threat to national security.

It’s that last one that makes her latest “she really said that?” moment perhaps the strangest one yet. During a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, O’Donnell listed both God and feminist leader Gloria Steinem as sources of inspiration when times get tough on the campaign trail.

Asked about the double standard for women in politics, O’Donnell responded:

I don’t feel it because I don’t watch the news. (Laughs) No. I do feel it. There’s certainly a double standard and I don’t often quote Gloria Steinem but she said you can look at a double standard if they wouldn’t attack the male opponent that way and there’s no doubt that they wouldn;t say the things they’re saying about me, they wouldn’t do the things that they’re doing if I weren’t a woman. I’m not whining but there certainly is a double standard especially when it comes to conservative woman.

O’Donnell seems to be referring to Steinem’s Statement on Equality, issued earlier this year upon the launch of Name It, Change It, a non-partisan effort to stamp out sexism in politics and political reporting. Steinem said, in part:

The most workable definition of equality for journalists is reversibility. Don’t mention her young children unless you would also mention his, or describe her clothes unless you would describe his, or say she’s shrill or attractive unless the same adjectives would be applied to a man. Don’t say she’s had facial surgery unless you say he dyes his hair or has hair plugs. Don’t say she’s just out of graduate school but he’s a rising star. Don’t say she has no professional training but he worked his way up. Don’t ask her if she’s running as a women’s candidate unless you ask him if he’s running as a men’s candidate; ask both about the gender gap, the women’s vote.

Neither candidates nor journalists, it seems, have been good at heeding that advice this election season. The Krystal Ball photos. Ken Buck asking voters to “vote for me because I don’t wear high heels.”  Male and female candidates coming up with endless iterations of  “man up.” And, of course, Jay Leno’s particularly nasty oral sex joke about O’Donnell herself.

So is it really possible that the Tea Party’s new female darling — who believes abortion should be illegal in all cases, who can’t locate separation of church in the Constitution or name a Supreme Court case, and thinks women serving in the military “cripples the readiness of our defense” – and the godmother of American feminism actually agree on something?

Not likely. Steinem ended her ‘Statement of Equality’ with this:

However, this does NOT mean being even-handedly positive or negative when only one person or side has done something positive or negative. Equality allows accuracy.

If Christine O’Donnell were a male candidate who stumbled into his party’s Senate nomination, he would be laughed out of the political arena as unqualified and unfit to serve. Just take as a counterbalance South Carolina’s Democratic nominee for Senate, Alvin Greene. Like O’Donnell, Greene has a sketchy employment and education history and little actual chance of taking the oath of office come January. Unlike O’Donnell, he’s been disavowed by his party and, after a few national interviews in which he fumbled for words and a coherent policy profile, has slipped into obscurity despite still being on the ballot.

When John McCain nominated an unqualified, incoherent political neophyte named Sarah Palin as his 2008 running mate, the GOP was not making strides for gender equality. Instead, it was the beginning of a party policy of lowering the bar for women candidates, a practice as sexist as raising it, as in the case of Hillary Clinton being forced to run as tougher, meaner, and manlier than any of her 2008 primary opponents. The backlash Christine O’Donnell is experiencing is not, as she says, against conservative women, but against the idea that she and others like her are really as good as female candidates can and should be.

Unfortunately for O’Donnell, the women of Delaware aren’t buying the GOP’s sexism parading as empowerment. Female Delawareans prefer her Democratic rival Chris Coons by a 27 point margin, as compared to the 11 point lead for Coons among men.

In the same CBN interview, O’Donnell talked about praying to God to win the election. In the face of those poll numbers, she might be better off calling Gloria Steinem to find out what a real pro-woman candidate looks like.

Michael Johns, via Creative Commons,


Jeffrey M.
Jeffrey M7 years ago

Come on, quit picking on poor Ken Buck. Sure, he's an idiot, but his opponent, Jane Norton, accused him of not being "man enough" to write his own attack ads against her. Accusing a man of not being "man enough" is no less sexist than accusing a woman of not being "man enough". Therefore, she started it. Let's give everyone fair credit, shall we?

Brian M.
Past Member 7 years ago

It never fails: as soon as someone starts claiming to have received messages from "god," my B.S. alarm sounds!

Jane A.
Jane A.7 years ago

The anonymous guy who claimed to have a 1 night stand w/ Christine O'Donnell is finally revealed. #LoveAndOtherDrugs

Walter G.
Walter G7 years ago

On this eve of the election, all I can say is that the oddest things occur during elections, which eventually bring abusive and undesirable women and men alike into public office. The remarks above, or most of them, remind me of remarks about Sarah Palin and some of them about Nancy Pellosi. I guess this is the current trend, after scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel, then tipping it over to try to find a viable candidate under it, parties and would be parties give up and flog dingbats, geezers, and people better attired in a straight jacket. Quality of leadership? That seems to be all but gone in a hail of dishonesty and reversal of promises. Those still awake in the electorate should be insulted by the repeated dog-eared, dust-covered, political manure spewing from the mouths of most of these candidates. In the case of governmental 'leaders,' todays so-called 'treasure' is trash as soon as the swearing in is completed and that politician begins to have his, her, or its secretary line up the appointments to discuss bribes or the payback for support. Cheryl Roshak, Tori W, Salome Waters, Camielle H., Alexandra Rodda, monica r., and Alexandra O, you have all expressed what I don't have the space to express, and my eyes blur easily leading to grammatic and spelling errors. Suffice to say that if women who are obviously not fit to run for office get shoved into the limelight for whatever reason, that is one more nail in the coffin lid I call stage 2 of sufferage.

Alexandra O.
Alex O7 years ago

Does she realize what an embarrassment she is to herself every time she opens her mouth? She is a very scary proposition to the American people and we need to do everything within our power to prevent her from winning.

Alexandra Rodda
Alexandra Rodda7 years ago

Who nominated her and why?
She is very obviously cute and at the same time, lacking in what it takes to be in office.
The people that back her probably want someone that is a bit dumb so that they can control her.
The thing that is really astonishing though is that she has got some votes. Who votes for her? Surely it isn't all people who are more dumb than she is. there surely aren't that many, despite the continuing efforts of governments to dumb down the population.

Pat H.
Pat H7 years ago


monica r.
monica r7 years ago

have you been in the military? I have not, but your statement

"the males start to see the female soldier almost as a little sister. And that would create protective, brotherly instincts that could possibly jeopardize unit integrity."

befuddles me. I would think that feeling familial bonds would INCREASE unit integrity, like a "band of brothers" or in this case, "sisters".

Not having been in the military myself, I HAVE worked in a male dominated industry where there was high risk to personal safety, in isolated wilderness environments (nobody but our "unit" to depend on for survival). We had a varying number of females. All of them were as tough, all of them worked AT LEAST as hard, all of them followed commands without question. The fact that we saw the guys as "big brothers" and they saw us as "little sisters" was a guarantee that they had your back and if you were in danger they would do whatever necessary to get you safe, as we would for them.

In other words, we had a really "strong bond of unity in the group".

ruth a.
ruth a7 years ago

and yet, and yet, there are female candidates! There certainly weren't (or not many) when I was young. I don't like all of them and I really don't want to see all of them in office, but at least women think they can run for office and give it a try. That's a step upward, no doubt more obvious to someone with a longer view...

Stephen Amsel
Past Member 7 years ago

I'm not sure if Shelby is aware of this, but Palin was far, far from a neophyte when selected as McCain's running-mate. She was a former mayor, was a state-governor, had already risen high enough in the GOP to be one of the primary presidential campaign organizers, and had, apparently, successfully negotiated off-shore (off the Alaskan shore) oil-rights on behalf of the U.S. with Russia. The bar was arguably set higher for her than for Obama, whose elected political career consisted of seven years as a state-senator and two as a federal one. Without having served a full term in federal office, by the logic of this article, was Obama's candidacy racism?

Also, we've seen how the GOP responds to a man they consider under-qualified, who somehow get the nomination. It happened in Alaska. Joe Miller was, to say the least, not the GOP leaders' first choice. They gave him the nomination, in accordance with their rules, and issued an order forbidding any entity of the GOP from providing their favoured candidate, Murkowski any support whatsoever. The relevant difference between O'Donnell and Greene is party, not gender.