If you type in your Google search bar “Hillary Clinton”, the first suggestion in the autocomplete function of Google is “Hillary Clinton age”. This at first doesn’t seem significant; it makes sense that a lot of people would be curious about the statistical information of a political figure. But what makes it significant is this: “age” is in the top three autocomplete option for the searches “Sarah Palin”, “Nancy Pelosi”, and “Michelle Obama”, but doesn’t even make it into the suggestions for “Jeb Bush”, “Bernie Sanders”, “Rand Paul”, or “Barack Obama”. The average American googler, it seems, finds the age of its female current or potential political leaders of huge importance, while not caring so much about that of males.
Even in these beginning stages of the 2016 political campaign fever, the electorate and media alike are already treating women and men almost comically unequally. An article in Salon added insight to this discrepancy in feelings about age discovered in our google search experiment. Both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are on the older end of the age spectrum of the 2016 candidates so far announced. According to the media, this is no problem for Bush- in fact it’s a good thing. He’s been praised for his “stature” and “grown-up attitude”. For Clinton, on the other hand, being older is quite the problem. Among the media’s comments on her age is the statement that she’s too “rooted in the past”.
How can anybody claim that we live in a gender-equal society when the exact same thing, maturity, is an asset for a male candidate and a turn-off for a female candidate? For Jeb Bush, being older makes him a grown up and a voice of reason, while for Hillary Clinton, it means outdatedness and an inability to think forward. America still holds incredible double standards for women and men, and skeptically googling the age of female candidates and either seeing that of men as a nonevent or only a good thing is just one example of this. Unfortunately, as the 2016 race heats up, we are only going to see these gender discrepancies heightened and Hillary targeted more and more for her age, looks, and outfits, while the male candidates remain free of these criticisms.
Even if this election does end with the first female president of the United States, the way that Hillary and other women are examined and treated so differently than men shows that the fight for gender equality is far from over. It’s only just the beginning. Women and men are approaching a critical juncture in gender reformation, and we have a choice; we can look the other way and ignore the archaic stereotypes and gender biases that have permeated politics for years, or we can stand tall, confront these sensitive issues, and take a stand to initiate sustainable change.
-Rachel Scharf, Unleashed Summer Intern