Several women's interest groups penned a letter to mainstream news organizations ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate selection, anticipating that he will pick a female to run on his ticket.
Leadership from organizations including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, National Women's Law Center, Supermajority, National Partnership for Women and Families, EMILY's List and TimesUp pointed to "disappointing coverage" and "double standards" in coverage of female candidates:
“Given how few women have reached this point, the sometimes disappointing coverage of the process to date and the double standards we’ve seen in the public and media expectations of women leaders over the years- and even more so for Black and Brown women leaders - we wanted to respectfully share some thoughts with you about the media’s role in the scrutiny and coverage of women and women of color candidates in general, and the vice-presidential candidate in particular,” they write. “A woman VP candidate, and possibly a Black or Brown woman candidate, requires the same kind of internal consideration about systemic inequality as you undertook earlier this year. Anything less than full engagement in this thoughtful oversight would be a huge step backwards for the progress you have pledged to make to expand diversity of thought and opportunity in your newsrooms and in your coverage.”
While the groups are correct in that sexist coverage of female politicians widely exists, any biased treatment toward Biden's vice presidential pick will not be the first of its kind. Just 12 years ago, during the 2008 general election, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin received despicably sexist coverage throughout the campaign, and these groups had little to say about it. While Palin was called a "bimbo" by mainstream outlets, while her ability to lead was questioned and while her appearance was objectified as a national spectacle, these groups that claim to "support" and "empower" women turned a blind eye.
Female politicians should, indeed, be covered fairly without slanted coverage based on gender, but criticism in and of itself is not sexist. Criticism of the eventual vice presidential candidate's ideology is merited. The inevitable scrutiny of Sen. Harris's voting record, Sen. Warren's history of lying or Susan Rice's handling of national security issues are completely fair game. In fact, to leave these criticisms out would represent the real sexism.