Women, Disability, and Their Role In Politics


Douglas C. Bayton, the author of “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History,” makes an argument that characteristics of disability are used in America to condescend “unwanted” minority groups. More specifically, accusations of mental and physical disability towards minority groups, such as women and African-Americans, are often used to keep the members of these groups out of the political system. He writes that, “Lois Magner has described how women were said to bear the ‘onerous functions of the female,’ which incapacitated them for ‘active life’ and produced a ‘mental disability that rendered women unfit’ for political engagement. Nancy Woloch has noted that a ‘major antisuffragist point was that women were physically, mentally, and emotionally incapable of duties associate with the vote. Lacking rationality and sound judgment, they suffered from “logical infirmity of mind.” … Unable to withstand the pressure of political life, they would be prone to paroxysms of hysteria’” (Bayton 43). In this passage, Bayton is suggesting that women are seen as mentally and physically unable to withstand and thrive in the pressures of the American political system and are seen this way due to their categorization as being a part of a minority group. The argument presented by this cultural artifact, “Hillary Clinton: Why Women Must ‘Dare To Compete’ In Politics,” is that the United States of America’s political system is a difficult place for women to win power and Hillary Clinton believes that there should be more women joining her in representing the country. The author, Moira Forbes, makes that argument by including quotes from Hillary Clinton, such as, “electing a female president would, according to Clinton, require a “leap of faith” on the part of American voters,… She referenced former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who noted, ‘If women want to be in politics, they need to ‘grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros.’ ‘And I think there is still truth to that, so you have to step up, you have to dare to compete,’ Clinton added” (ForbesWomen). Bayton and Forbes both address the issue of women, minority groups, in politics and how difficult it still is although we have progressed as a nation from our history. They are similar in the way that women are seen as inferior to men in the social and political aspects of the United States. Bayton says that characteristics of disability are thrust upon women in order to make them seem inferior and Forbes says that in order to create positive change in the way women are seen in society, regarding power, women need to step out of social boundaries and join men in the political system. More specifically, I believe that both Bayton and Forbes are correct in that women should not be socially underestimated or condemned into the specific boundaries of their minority group. Do you agree that women should be able to overcome their social boundaries, of being seen as inferior to men, and equally represent the United States in its political system?


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