Amid the chaos of the ongoing Georgetown University Student Association election, it is comforting to find that away from the Hilltop, national politics is shedding its former stagnancy. In January, the online blog Feministe showcased two powerful photos; juxtaposed, they revealed the progress our country has made in just the past few months.

The first photo captures Bush and his cadre of men-in-waiting signing off on legislation to restrict reproductive rights. (Thanks for the concern, gentlemen.) Shown alongside it is a photo of President Obama’s very first bill signing – he approved the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was designed to combat wage discrimination. Obama signed the bill the same week he issued an executive order lifting the global gag rule on international family planning services.

The sweet success of the first weeks following the presidential election, however, was diluted by the frustrating results of many of the other races decided on Nov. 4. Election Day was a sweeping victory for progressives across the country, but many in the progressive constituency were left wanting. A barrier continues to foil women who seek positions in national politics. In this past election, the House of Representatives added just one woman, bringing the total number of female representatives to 75 of the 435 members. The number of women in the Senate – 17 – also rose by only one.

Just as frustrating has been the political climate surrounding the candidacies of several well-qualified and formidable female candidates for public office. Brave women who do step forward seem to face an enduring double standard, manifested in insensitive public judgments and harsher media scrutiny than that experienced by their male counterparts.

Like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin before her, Caroline Kennedy experienced challenges and humiliations unique to female office-seekers in her recent campaign for Clinton’s New York Senate seat. In the weeks immediately following President Obama’s election, Kennedy morphed from American darling to nothing short of a laughingstock, thanks to New York news pundits. Even after she withdrew from political consideration, many speculated that she had done so to avoid discussion of accusations of hiring an illegal immigrant nanny and owing back taxes.

eanwhile, two other Senate vacancies were filled with far less drama by men: Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), widely seen as a placeholder for Vice President Joseph Biden’s son, Beau, is Delaware’s new senator. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) filled Obama’s vacated seat, despite being picked by a governor charged with corruption and the open opposition of the Democratic majority and Obama himself.

Even the most hardened and experienced female contenders face demeaning commentary that focuses on irrelevancies in their love lives and their wardrobes, while the greenest of men are often taken seriously from their first public appearance. Illinois state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz’s primary for the Chicago-area U.S. House seat is just days away – and as she campaigns with a spotless political record, including a compelling record on health care and family planning, she has suffered personal character attacks that seek to marginalize her.

Despite this election’s promise for change, glass ceilings and stubborn stereotypes persist in American politics. While some initial endeavors of the Obama administration demonstrate that the next four years will be much kinder to the feminist agenda, I cannot help but hope that progression in legislation will help smooth the path for progression in our legislatures.

Bridget Nugent is a junior in the College. She can be reached at A Word for Jane Hoya appears every other Monday on

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