Date of Degree

2-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

James Wilson

Subject Categories

Women's Studies

Keywords

women in politics, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Shirley Chisholm, suffrage movement, 2017 women's march

Abstract

My thesis argues that the left engage in electoral politics and run left candidates, while also fighting benevolent and malicious sexism in politics. The introduction sets the stage for my thesis by defining key terms. The first chapter argues for an intersectional feminist left that reclaims electoral politics. The chapter analyzes the historic women’s suffrage campaign, which relied on reformist strategies and direct action-based tactics to prove the effectiveness of electoral engagement. The second chapter argues that sexism in politics can be measured by media coverage of women candidates. I show this by analyzing archival research from The New York Times on three significant women candidates, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull, and Shirley Chisholm. The third chapter argues that the left establish a Hillary Test, whereby biases for and against candidates based on gender or identity politics—isolated from political ideology—can be named and dismissed. The chapter turns to archival New York Times research of historical articles about Hillary Rodham Clinton paired with Clinton’s own autobiographies to examine the sexism that Clinton experienced. In doing so, I highlight the media’s pivotal role in creating a misogynist environment for Clinton, while also showing that the left’s principled attacks against the candidate were justified. The forth chapter will argue that feminist leftists can overcome sexism with campaigns that embrace their identities and leftist ideologies. This section is centered by an in-depth analysis of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s successful strategies in her run for Congress as a 28-year old Latina Democratic Socialist.

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